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WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 



JANUARY 1954 35 CENTS 




MACK REYNOLDS JAMES E. GUNN RICHARD WILSON 




MONORAIL TRAINS may be a popular form of overland trans- 
portation in the future. Incorporating many scientific advances, 
they'll have most of the advantages and none of the disadvan- 
tages of air trovel, Rocket-power will make extremely high 
speeds possible, and the "coaches" will be built in several stories 
to accommodate more passengers, 
insure safety. 



Gyroscopic stabilization will 



m WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 

f JANUARY 1954 

All Stories New and Complete 

Editor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Associate Editor: LARRY T. SHAW 

Assistant Editor: THOR h. KROGH 

Cover by Ken Fagg, illustrating 
"III"'""" An Undersea Civilization 

SHORT NOVEL 

MALICE IN WONDERLAND by Evon Hunter 4 

SHORT STORIES 



LETTER OF THE LAW by Alan E. Nourse 


50 


NAVY DAY by Harry Harrison 


£3 


A WORD FOR FREEDOM by James E. Gunn 


68 


DOUBLE TAKE by Richard Wilson 


82 


ANACHRON by Damon Knight 


94 


OFF COURSE by Mack Reynolds 


114 


FEATURES 




A CHAT WITH THE EDITOR 


2 


PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 


91 


IF YOU KNOW . . . 


109 


SCIENCE BRIEFS 


110 


WORTH CITINS 


113 



COVER PICTORIAL: Monorail Trains and 
Robot Mining by Ed Valigursky 



me 2, No. 6. 

Copyright 19M by Qu.nn I'.iblMW Co.. Inc. OiBn- of imWiaiKU, 8 Lore 1 Street, 
I'.nil.ilci New N'uik Knleml as Second Class Mam-: ji i'u.i Olti-e, BuHao. New 
York- Subscript. oi. S3.5U lor 12 L,sues Jr. U.S. ar.rj Possessions; Cai.ada J4 far 12 
issues; irhcwlisre $4.50. Allow loui weeks for change ol address. All stori;- aLpear- 
iiig h; tiis magazine are fiction; any tsiuiJai-ity co actual persons- is coinci denial. 
Not te-poniible for unsolicited a;tvoik or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next issue on sale January 8 




A CHAT WITH 
THE EDITOR 



THE ONLY good language is a 
dead language. 

That, of course, is a trick state- 
ment, designed to arrest attention. 
It docs so, if successful, by a cal- 
culated use of the word "good" in 
strict compliance with dictionary 
definitions. It takes lots of words 
to define "good" completely, but 
these are prominent: sufficient for 
its purpose, ample, possessing de- 
sirable or attractive qualities, well- 
behaved, virtuous, sound and reli- 
able, socially in good repute. (That 
last one is interesting — Webster 
rarely finds himself backed into a 
corner where he has to use a word 
to define itself.) 

If your first reaction to the open- 
ing sentence was one of sharp disa- 
greement, you were using the word 
"good" carelessly. AH right — care- 
lessness is one of the influences 
which keep any living language 
constantly changing. There are 



others as well. With all of them in 
operation, no living language can 
be completely sufficient for its pur- 
pose, entirely ample, possessing only 
desirable or attractive qualities, 
strictly well-behaved, virtuous, 
sound and reliable. At least part of 
the time, too, it will be socially in 
ill repute. 

Our language, because we use it, 
is a highly suspicious character. It 
is adaptable, resilient, and fast on 
its feet. It twists words like "good" 
to mean all sorts of unlikely things, 
it adds to "good" to construct other 
words, and it invents completely 
new words to cover parts of the 
territory formerly occupied by 
"good." So it isn't a good language 
— acording to Webster. 

THE ABOVE has been said before, 
and there's nothing very surprising 
about it. But let's carry it a step 
further by examining a couple of 
other facets of the changing process. 

Members of any given profession 
or specialized group have a lan- 
guage of their own. Some of this 
is pure slang which is never assimil- 
ated into the common language, al- 
though some of it could be quite 
usefully. One of the first things an 
editor learns is that the part of a 
magazine story that is continued in 
the back of the book is the "jump", 
and thereafter he always refers to 
it as such. You never heard the 
term outside an editorial office, and 
it's certainly simpler than "continu- 
ation" or the painfully frequently 
heard, "You know — where it says 
'Continued on page so-and-so. . .' " 

Science and technology, na- 
turally, are increasingly responsible 
for words that arc new, com- 



pounded, or adapted to new mean- 
ings: amplidyne and analogue, cy- 
bernetics and cyclotron, rcsnatron 
and rcsojetj winterize and wobble- 
pump. Part of the credit for "win- 
terize" goes to advertising and pub- 
lic relations mi n, a specialized 
group whose members vie hungrily 
with each other in the creation and 
spread of novel and eatehy words. 
In any case, words describing in- 
ventions and discoveries that are 
headlines today but will henceforth 
affect the average man profoundly 
are bound to creep into his lan- 
guage. 

AT THE SAME TIME, scientists and 
technologists are turning their at- 
tention more directly to problems 
of communication and the exchange 
of information. Cybernetic ists and 
others interested in this new science 
(yes, Information is now a science, 
the word having acquired a slightly 
new meaning of its own in the pro- 
cess) arc intent on finding flaws 
and failures in effective communi- 
cation, and are progressing by leaps 
and jet-blasts. 

What we've been getting around 
to, and what we hope such investi- 
gators will consider, is that flawed 
or unsuccessful communication may 
sometimes be deliberate. People, in 
many cases, don't want others to 
understand them. There are spe- 
cialized groups that speak their own 
languages to bar understanding by 
outsiders through sheer selfishness 
or outright maliciousness. 

To his teacher, the third grade 
youngster speaks the best English 
she is capable of teaching him. With 
his own age group, as soon as he is 
outside the school building, he uses 



only their current slang and — what 
is worse— the deliberately ungram- 
maticaj language required by their 

unwritten COd& II be doesn't, he 
ll n't oae of the gang. 

Teen-agers, of course, commit 
even worse crimei against the lan- 
guage, but theb [argon has been 
discovered by magazine writers, gets 

iiiln print t» i iisiim.illy, and some of 
n dl li i Into the main stream Tins 

is an accident thai has nothing to 
do with this basic argument 

Look around you! Fans of var- 
ious forms of sports mumble cryp- 
tically, hypnotizing themselves into 
dangerous dreams of the good old 
days. Women when alone speak a 
language incomprehensible to men, 
and undoubtedly use it as camou- 
flage for all sorts of evil schemes. 
Avid science fiction fanatics, the 
kind who have long since cut them- 
selves loose from the rest of hu- 
manity, invent new ways of blowing 
up the universe and make it appear 
that they are only discussing the 
most recent convention. Cabots 
speak only to Lowells, and Lowells 
ain't talkin' to nobody. 

It takes a strong mind to resist 
the pressure. Many otherwise good 
minds yield to it and are lost for- 
ever. It's a vicious spiral down- 
wards, with warped speech leading 
to warped thinking which produces 
more warped speech. 

Clarity and lucidity arc difficult 
ideals to attain. The communica- 
tion of ideas is not easy at best. 
Scientists, in their new and admira- 
ble attempts to discover why this is 
so, should not confine their inves- 
tigations to man's sub-conscious 
mind. The conscious mind is in 
there pitching. — Its 



The Vike tide is rising — and it's doom, brothers, doom! 
Get fixed with sensational stereos, flaming senso's, 
seductive skin tints, super-sending hypos! Loin your 
girds for battle with the Ree's . . . 



malice 

in 

wonderland 

By Evan Hunter 

Illustrated by Kelly Freas 



I SHOULD HAVE recognized 
the trouble signs when they first 
started. Looking back, I can see 
millions of them, some big, and 
some very small and simple. But as 
it was , . . 

I pulled Bclazi's review out of 
the com, read it quicklv, and then 
sat back to enjoy a quiet chuckle. 
He killed inc. The guy absolutely 
paralyzed me. I held the review out 
aT ann's length, and I read it over 
again, and I nearly choked laugh- 
ing. It was getting so I could pre- 



dict just what he was going to say 
even before a paback hit the stands. 
I pulled my chair closer to the desk 
and punched Lizbeth's buzzer. 

"Yes, sir?" Her voice was soft, 
well-modulated. 

"Honey," I said, "see if you can 
get Clark for me, will you?" 

"Yes, sir." She clicked off, and I 
thought of something and buzzed 
her again. "Sir?" 

"And have Clipinc get me copies 
of all the papes carrying reviews of 
Stolen Desire, will you?" 



EVAN HUNTER 



"Yes, sir." 

I sat back again, and shook my 
head in wonder at Dino Belazi and 
all the other R'cc's. They'd never 
learn. They'd sit in their high por- 
celain bathtubs until the Vikc tide 
reached up past their nostrils and 
drowned them. Clark Talbot's book 
had been a masterpiece of Vikc 
literature. So Belazi had dipped his 
duck quill deep in Rce blood and 
torn it to pieces with archaic lan- 
guage. Typical. Typical, and 
doomed, because the Vikes were — 

The buzzer sounded and I click- 
ed on. 

"Yes?" 

"I have Mr. Talbot for you, sir. 
On five." 

"Thanks, Liz." 

I swung my chair around and 
snapped on five, focusing the pic- 
ture. Clark was still in his pajamas, 
and there was the flabby look of 
sleep on his rough-hewn features. 

"Oh, good morning, Van," he 
said. 

I showed him my teeth in a wide 
grin, and he winced and licked his 
lips with his tongue. "You see what 
Belazi brewed on Stolen?" I asked. 

"No. Is it out yet?" Clark's face 
became interested, and the sleep 
began to flee from his eyes. 

"Hit the stands this morning. 
Bclazi's on the com now, if you 
want to pull it." 

"Did you pull it?" 

"Sure, got it right here." 

"Let me see it," he said. Then he 
shook his head and put one hand 
over his eyes. "No, read it to me 
instead." 

"Big night?" 

"Hcrrocokc. You ever try it?" 

"I never mix, Clark." 



"I was blind, Van. It's really des- 
truction. You should try — " He 
Stopped short, blinked his eyes and 
asked, "You mean you never mix? 
Never?" 

"My habit is short and straight, 
and needs no mate." 

Clark shook his head. "Mister, 
you're just a Ree in disguise. 
What'd Belazi chop about?" 

"The usual. Pull up a chair." 

"Will I need one?" 

"Hell, no. Every sad review 
Belazi gives is another million in 
the bank. You should pray he 
doesn't honeymoon you." 

"Fat chance. The day Belazi 
gives one of my pabacks a favora- 
ble review, I'll eat the book — glue 
and all." 

"Corn in the morn, Clark. You'd 
better just loin your girds and 
listen." 

"They're loined. On, father." 

"There's the usual feese heading 
it: title, scribe, pub, and price. 
Then: 'Clark Talbot, chief pur- 
veyor of Vicarious filth, is repre- 
sented on the pocket-size stands 
this morning with a lewd, lascivi- 
ous, obscene, and pornographic 
document titled . . .' " 

"How was that again?" 

"Lewd, lascivious, obscene, and 
pornographic." 

"Father, Uiat is pure feese for the 
falcons." 

"He seems to feel the same way 
about your book. Shall I go on?" 

"Fire at Billy Boy." 

"Still quoting: 'pornographic 
document titled Stolen Desire. As 
with all Vicarious literature, and 
with the entire Vicarious Move- 
ment in general, this alleged novel 
seeks to arouse and to excitate. . .' " 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



"Rxcitate?" 

"So the man said." 

Clark shrugged. "Excitate," he 
said dully. "More, Van." 

" *to excitate the body, to stimu- 
late the diseased mind, to fabricate 
an existence completely alien to 
that surrounding us. Realistically 

"Oops, here comes the Rec pitch 
again." 

" 'Realistically, it serves no pur- 
pose. It is a symposium of smut, as 
narcotic as the more tangible drugs 
the Vicarious Movement has. . .' " 

"Stop! Enough. I gather he did- 
n't care much for it. Wouldn't you 
say so, Van?" 

"Well, I think he was mildly 
goofed by it, yes. So what? 
Si; room." 

Clark looked mildly serious. "I 
suppose so. But sometimes. . . Oh 
well. You going to that Deborah 
thing tonight?" 

"Maybe. What's on?" 

"Some new stuff, she said. But 
then, you don't mix." 

"Nope, I don't mix." 

"Well, she's also got a new senso. 
Supposed to be the cat's. Drop 
around. I want to talk to you about 
tri-dim rights to Even Dozen, any- 
way." 

"Sorry, Clark. I close my office 
at seventeen." 

"Well hell, father. . » 

"You want business, come 
around at about fourteen today. 
Otherwise, I'll see you tonight. But 
no business chop, chum." 

"The trouble with agents. . ." 

"Feesc for the falcs, Clark. I'll 
see you later." 

"Yeah," he mumbled. I snapped 
off and the picture faded. I 



thought about Bclazi's review for 
a few moments, and then I buzzed 
Lizbeth again. When she came on, 
I said, "Did you round up those 
papes, honey?" 
"Yes, sir." 

"Bring them in, will you?" 
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir." 
I waited for a few seconds until 
the door slid open and Lizbeth 
stepped through. She was a small 
blonde, and the dailies she carried 
fairly hid her head. She staggered 
over to the desk, dropped the pile 
onto its polished top and then back- 
ed away. 



SHE WAS WEARING one of 
the new sec-thru skirts, but in 
the light she stood in it was opaque. 
The skirt was belted around her 
waist with a narrow red sash. Above 
the skirt, her flesh was firm and 
taut, her breasts high. I stared at 
them for a moment and asked, 
"That's new, isn't it?" 

She looked down at her naked 
breasts. "Do you like it?" 

"I'm not sure." 

"It's a new shade. It changes 
with the fight, too, the way the 
skirt does." 

I walked to the window and 
pressed the button in the sill. The 
blinds slanted downward quickly, 
spilling sunlight into the room, 
bathing Lizbeth in a warm glow. It 
caught the skirt in its molten web, 
turning the material to a thin trans- 
lucent stuff through which I saw 
the outline of her legs, the tops of 
her stockings taut against her 
thighs. Her breasts had suddenly 
shifted shades, their undersides 
shimmering in dazzling silver, their 



EVAN HUNTER 



sloping tops a pale fuchsia. 

"Do you like it?" she asked. 

"Yes, I think so. It's effective." 
I turned away and began thumbing 
through the dailies. As I'd sus- 
pected, the Rce columnists had all 
blasted hell out of Clark's book. 
That was good. That was fine. 
Still, there were a lot of them and 
they had a lot of sympathetic read- 
ers. But tables were made to be 
turned. 

"Honey, I want you to have bigs 
made out of Belazi's com review, 
and a few stereos, also. We'll use 
the bigs in our regular ad space; 
and try to get us some time for the 
stereoshows. The sooner the better. 
Call Sterling Baker at Triple Press 
and tell him what we plan. Hint 
that I'd like him to split the cost. 
If he sounds goofed, forget it, But 
try to convince him, Liz. Hell, he'll 
be sharing in the profits." 

"Yes, sir." 

"You might give him a full shot 
of yourself when you call. Stand in 
the light." I looked at the skirt 
again. "That's a very effective 
gizmo." 

"Thank you, sir." 

"Has Bruce called in yet?" 

"No, sir." 

"Put him through as soon as he 
docs, will you?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Had your morning fix?" 

"No, sir." 

"Neither have I. What's your 
pleasure?" 

"Opaine." 

"Another mixer." I shook my 
head. "You're trading your womb 
for a tomb, Liz." 

Lizbeth shrugged, and the sud- 
den shift of light turned her breasts 



a deep blue. Effective gizmo was 
milding it, I thought, and made a 
decision. "It's no fix without the 
tricks, father." 

"Well spoke, but a big joke. 
Want to join me?" I didn't wait 
for an answer. "Bring your kit in." 

"There's someone waiting to see 
you, sir." 

"Scroom. Bring your kit in. He 
can wait." 

"It's a she, sir." 

"So, scroor. She can wait, too." 

"I'm honored, father," Liz said, 
smiling. 

"Come on, mother. It's later 
than you think." 

She turned and walked toward 
the door, and her skirt turned 
opaque again, hiding the long curve 
of her legs. The door slid open as 
she reached it, and I looked 
through to the reception room, saw 
a tall redhead sitting on the couch, 
her legs crossed. The door slid 
closed, hiding her from view, and 
I walked to the bar and took out 
my kit. I unsnapped the leather 
case, opened it, and selected one of 
the silver vials inside. The chron 
set in the case's lid told mc it was 
nine twenty-five, and nine thirty 
was happy time. 

I brought the vial to my desk, 
checked the gauge to be sure the fix 
was adequate, and waited for Liz- 
beth. The door slid open, and she 
came in carrying a small, red leath- 
er woman's kit. 

She laid the kit on the desk, her 
breasts shading to a pale char- 
treuse as she stepped into the 
shadow of the drapes. She snapped 
open the lid, selected a silver vial, 
and asked, "Sure you won't try a 
mixed fix? Grand kicks, father." 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



"I'm straight," I told her. 

"On what?" 

"Morph." 

She wrinkled her nose. "It's your 
snort, but why make life short?" 

The hands of the chron nudged 
nine-thirty. "Time to kick," I said. 
I placed the silver vial on the desk, 
swabbed my arm with alcohol, and 
then picked up the hypo again. I 
traced it along the vein, waiting 
until the indicator told me I'd 
score. I glanced at Lizbeth who 
had lifted her skirt and was running 
the vial along her thigh. Most 
women used their legs, preferring 
not to mark arms which were con- 
stantly exposed. 

"Well," I said, "happy." 

"Here's to you." 

We pressed the buttons on our 
vials simultaneously, and I felt the 
sharp slender needle puncture my 
vein, felt the drug ooze from the 
vial, felt the vial draw back the 
drug mixed with blood, pump it 
into my body again, out, in, out, 
in. 

"Destruction," I murmured, my 
eyes closed. 

"Doom," Lizbeth answered, her 
eyes beginning to glaze, her mouth 
partly opened as the drug took 
hold. 

I released the button, twisted the 
cap of the vial so that it would 
clean the needle, and then put it 
back in the kit, alongside the 
other empties. Lizbeth snapped shut 
the lid on her case. 

"This is good stuff," I told her. 
"Where'd you order it?" 

"Swift's Drugs. We've always 
got it from them." 

"Mm? Well, this is unusually 
good. You might order more at 



once. We may get some of the same 
lot. Incidentally, is everyone in the 
office supplied?" 

"We ordered a new shipment of 
benzejuana yesterday." 

"Benzejuana? Who's the square?" 

"One of the stock clerks. A Ree 
convert. He's breaking in slow." 

"Mother, how slow can you get? 
Give him a pop of herro tomorrow. 
That or two weeks* notice. 
Groove?" 

"I understand," she said. Her 
speech was slow, her lids half -cover- 
ing her blue eyes. 

"What brews this eve, Liz?" 

"With me?" 

"Uhm." 

"Naught, father." 

"Fine. I'll be by at twenty. A 
party." 

Her eyes twinkled. "Father, I'm 
dead," she said gailv. 

"Fine. Send the girl in, Liz. Tell 
her I've an appointment at. . ." I 
glanced at my wrist chron. ". . . 
nine forty-five. Tell her we'll have 
to make this short." 

"Grooved," she said, and then 
she was gone. 

I hitched up my breeches, look- 
ing at myself in the full-length mir- 
ror set next to the bar. The breeches 
were tight, and the new stuff I'd 
used on rny chest had given me a 
wild crop of hair there. I nodded 
in satisfaction and sat down behind 
my desk. In a few moments, the 
door opened, and the girl entered. 



I DIDN'T NEED a second look 
to know she was a Ree. She was 

wearing a skirt that reached below 
her knees, and the blouse she wore 

had long sleeves and a neckline 



10 



EVAN HUNTER 



that hugged her throat. She wore 
almost no makeup. The only vivid 
color about her was in her hair, 
and that was gathered at the nape 
of her neck in a tight bun. She 
even wore flats, de-emphasizing the 
curve of her legs. There didn't 
seem to be a bra beneath her blouse 
or girdle under her skirt — which 
was something. But otherwise she 
was strictly Rec, and an arty type 
at that. 

"Mr. Brant?" she asked. 

"Yes?" 

"My name is Lydia Silverstein." 

"Have a seat, won't you, Miss 
Silverstein?" I thought of what my 
own name had been before I'd 
joined the Vikes. John Branoski. 
Van Brant was a definite improve- 
ment. 

She sat in the chair I offered, 
crossed her legs, and demurely 
pulled her skirt down. 

"What can I do for you. Miss 
Silverstein?" 

"I'm a writer," she said. 

"I gathered. Most people who 
come to literary agents arc." 

Her green eyes widened slightly, 
and her lips parted. "Yes. Yes, I 
suppose they are." She sucked in 
a deep breath and said, "I've writ- 
ten some stercoshows." 

"Have you?" I said solicitously. 

"Yes, But I've been having trou^ 
ble getting them aired." 

"Oh?" 

"Yes. I'm a Ree." 

I smiled and looked at the blouse. 
"I wouldn't have guessed." 

"I suppose you're wondering why 
I came to you." 

"Well. . ." 

The buzzer sounded on my desk, 
and I clicked down the toggle. 



"Excuse me," I said. Then: "Yes?" 

"I've got Mr. Alloway on seven." 

"Thanks, Liz." I turned, snapped 
on seven, and focused. "Hello, 
Bruce." 

"Hello, Van. What brews?" 
Bruce was a handsome lad who'd 
recently had a nose bob. He was 
wearing crimson breeches, his 
chest curling with blond hair that 
was striking against the bronze of 
his skin. He'd had the hair on his 
head tinted blond, too, leaving his 
eyebrows their original black for a 
really unusual effect. 

"I was wondering how you're 
getting along on the new senso," I 
said. 

"All right, I suppose." 

"Ails? Ills?" 

"Small smells, that's all. I need 
a chick with a frontage. These 
damn senso things demand too 
much." 

"Would you rather be back writ- 
ing for the pabacks?" 

"Don't make glip, father." 

"I'm the original glib lip," I told 
him. "Since when is the scribe cast- 
ing the show?" 

"You ever work with Lana 
Davis?" 

"Only to take her checks. Why?" 

"She's got Rcc tendencies, I 
swear." 

I glanced quickly at Miss Sil- 
verstein, and then turned back to 
Bruce. "How so?" I asked. 

"You know how these sensory 
shows work. I swear, father, tin 1 
step below is a better one. I'd rath- 
er do tri-dims any day of the week." 

"Less slop and more chop, Bruce. 
I've got someone with me." 

"All right, I'll get straight to the 
point. I've got a busty bazoo in one 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



11 



scene. Davis doesn't want falsies. 
She says the viewers can spot them 
and feel them. She wants the real 
thing. Is that Ree feese, or is it?" 

"She's right," I said. "Hell, 
Bruce, she's been producing senso's 
for a long lime now. She knows 
what the customers want." 

"But the real thing': 1 There ain't 
no such chick. Christ, Van, not 
the way I've written it." 

"So change the script." 

"That's the crux, Van. She likes 
it the way it is." He shook his head. 
"She's a crazy illidge, Van. I 
swear." 

"Then do it her way. Pop over 
to Deborah Dean's tonight. You'll 
see plenty of frontage You might 
be able to get something." 

Bruce didn't look convinced. 
"Did you read the script?" he 
asked. 

"No." 

"1 thought so. If you had, you'd 
know there is no chick with a natch 
frontage like that. Oh, the hell 
with it." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean, scroor. I can always get 
back into tri-dims — and if worse 
comes to worst, there's the pabacks. 
At least the money is steady and I 
don't have to take feese from a 
chick with an Oedip as long as my 
arm." 

"She been psyched, or arc you 
just guessing?" 

"I'm guessing, but it's a sure 
thing. In the last sequence I did 
for her, she insisted my baddy was 
destroying the father image. Father 
image! How's that for the falcs?" 

"Stick with it, Bruce. It's cool 
cash. So you put up with a nut, so 
what?' 



"Yeah," Bruce said disgustedly. 
"I'll see you tonight?" 
"Deborah's?" 

"Yeah, at about twenty or 
twenty-one." 
"I'm with you.** 
"Grooved." 



I CLICKED OFF and turned 
to Miss Silvcrstein, who had 
politely stared out the window dur- 
ing the conversation. 

"Now then," I said, "what can I 
do for you?" 

"Was that Bruce Alloway?" she 
asked. 

"Himself." 

"He. . .he makes a lot of money, 
doesn't he? Writing, I mean." 

"One of our best scribes." 

She nodded, thinking of the 
money, and not the quality of 
Bruce's writing. "I want to make 
a lot of money," she said suddenly. 

"Everyone does." 

"I. . .I've never tried any Vike 
stuff." 

"What have you written?" 

She turned her head, and a flush 
suffused her neck, spread over her 
face. "Stuff," she said. "You 
know." 

"Stark realism? Slices of life? 
Turning the cruel, cold spotlight on 
suffering humanity? Exposing the 

"You needn't make fun," she 
snapped. 

"I wasn't. I used to handle that 
kind of stuff until I hopped aboard. 
If you want to make money, you'd 
best turn in your pen for a later 
model. You can sell that slicc-of- 
life feese to some of the small Ree 
journals for five bucks a throw. I 



12 



EVAN HUNTER 



won't handle it." 

"Why not?" 

"Because an agent's commission 
on a five-dollar sale is fifty cents. I 
run a business, not a benevolent 
society." 

"But. . .but do you really believe 
in this Vike stuff you sell? I mean, 
do you honestly believe it's litera- 
ture?" 

"What's literature?" I asked. "I 
define it as the profession of a writ- 
er or author." 

"That's a rather narrow defini- 
tion." 

"It's also what people read. If 
people no longer read Beowulf, it's 
no longer literature. Vike litera- 
ture serves a need in our society. If 
it needs any raison d'etre, that's it." 

"And. . .you'd recommend that 
1 write that kind of. . .of stuff?" 

"If you want to. I'm not recom- 
mending anything." 

"Where do I begin?" she asked 
earnestly. 

"First, shorten your skirt by 
about three feet. Throw your 
blouse away and show your breasts. 
Get some tints and real cosmetics, 
and find a habit. If you're bedding 
with anyone, kick him the hell out. 
Live with Vikes and eat with Vikes 
and learn what it's all about. As 
they used to say, get with it. That's 
the only way you can write it, and 
the only way you can sell it." 

"I. . .1 see." 

"Toss over all your realistic be- 
liefs, because they've no place in 
the Vike world. Then come back 
in a year or two and let me see what 
you've got." 

"Such a long time? Couldn't it 
be done faster?" 

I smiled. "I sec you've read 



Fygmalion. One of the prime ex- 
amples of early Vike literature. I 
thought that was on the Ree spit 
list." 

"It is." 

"And you read it anyway, huh? 
Well, that's promising." I thought 
it over. "Maybe you can do it 
faster, who knows? What's your 
name?" 

"Lydia Silverstein." 

"Change it, and fast. Come back 
in a week, and I'll talk to you 
then." 

She smiled ingratiatingly. "All 
light. Thanks a lot. I really — " 

"No slop, mother. Come back in 
a week with a new name. Wc can 
use some good women scribes if you 
work out." 

"Thank you. Thank you very — " 

"So long, Miss Silverstein." 

She rose abruptly, walking ( 
swiftly to the door. It slid open as 
she approached it and then closed 
gently behind her. I left my desk 
and glanced at my wrist chron. It 
was already nine forty-six, and 
Hayden Thorpe didn't like to be 
kept waiting. 

I walked to the closet, took a 
bottle of alcojel from the shelf on 
the door, and rubbed it over my 
chest, arms, and back. It dried al- 
most instantly, leaving a high sheen 
on my muscles. I looked into the 
mirror appreciatively, winked at 
myself, and then closed the closet 
door. 

I, walked back to my desk and 
buzzed Lizbeth. 

"Sir?" 

"I'm leaving, Liz. I may be back 
this afternoon. If not, I'll see you 
at twenty tonight." 

"Fine, Van." 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



13 



"You know where I'm going 
now, don't you?" 

"Mr. Thorpe's?" 

"Right. You can reach me there 
if it's urgent. Otherwise, I'm in 
Outer Mongolia." 

"Grooved, Van." 

"Keep thee close, Liz." I said. I 
heard her chuckle as I clicked off. 
I took one last look in the mirror, 
and then headed for the lift and 
the sixteenth level. 

II 

THE, JECTOR snapped off, 
leaving the room black for an 
instant, somehow cold and empty 
after what had been. I sank back 
in the upholstered chair, feeling 
completed exhausted. Music flowed 
from the wall speaks, and the 
lights came on, soft and golden. 

"Well," Hayden Thorpe asked, 
"how'd you like it?" 

"I'm dead/' I said, I wasn't 
kidding. It had been terrific. Posi- 
tively sensational. 

Hayden beamed happily. "This 
is going to set the senso industry on 
its arse, Van. I'm telling you it's 
the greatest goddamned thing since 
video." 

"You've sold me, Hayden," I 
said. "How many scribes will you 
need?" 

"Always business," he said, 
chuckling. He nudged one of his 
assistants and asked, "What do you 
think of this illidge, Lawrence?" 

Lawrence chuckled back, not 
daring to offend me by agreeing 
with Hayden, yet not wanting to 
seem disagreeable. 

"What'd you think of the love 
scene?" he asked me. 



"Destruction," I said. It had 
been. I'd never experienced any- 
thing like it before. 

"Felt as if the chick was really in 
your arms, didn't it?" Hayden 
asked. 

"In my arms? Father, I could 
feel her flesh and smell her per- 
fume. Hayden, you've got some- 
thing here that. . ." 

"That's only half of it, Van," 
Hayden said proudly. "Remember, 
we call this Individual Sensory Pro- 
ductions. Just a sec." He leaned 
back and pressed a button on the 
arm of his chair. Above the music 
coming from the speaks, came a 
well-modulated feminine voice. 

"Yes, sir?" 

"Rhonda, would you come in a 
moment, please?" 

"Certainly, Mr. Thorpe." 

Hayden leaned forward again 
and said, "My secretary, Van. I 
think you'll be a little surprised by 
what she has to say." 

I nodded and waited for the door 
to slide open. When it did, a tall 
brunette entered, carrying a small 
stcnotab. Her hair was piled high 
on her head, accentuating her 
height, in the fashion most tall 
girls affected. She wore her breasts 
pitch black, matching her hair, 
with silver sequins scattered from 
the center in a haphazard smear. 
Her skirt was long, but slit up the 
center and revealing laced, trans- 
lucent underwear as she walked 
across the room in long-legged 
strides. She sat in a chair next to 
Hayden, crossed her legs and poised 
her slender fingers over the keys of 
the stcnotab, ready for dictation. 

"No," Hayden said, "I just want- 
ed you to tell Mr. Brant some- 



14 



EVAN HUNTER 



thing." 

"Yes, sir,'* she said. She arched 
her brows, batted her lashes over 
the auburn contact lenses she wore. 
"What was it, sir?" 

"You saw the indi-senso wc ran 
yesterday, didn't you?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Do you remember the love 
scene?" 

A pulse in her throat quickened, 
and she lowered her eyes. "Yes, 
sir." 

"Will you describe it to Mr. 
Brant?" 

"Well. . it was set on a bal- 
cony. . ." 

"Yes?" 

"And. . .and it was a starry 
night. . ." 

I remembered the balcony, and 
I remembered the stars. I also re- 
membered how crisp the air had 
smclled. The hero had taken the 
girl into his arms, and I had ac- 
tually felt the pressure of her 
breasts, the silkiness of her hair. I'd 
sinclled the musky fragrance of her 
perfume, tasted the faint mint fla- 
vor of her lipstick. It had been an 
experience, one of the best senso's 
I'd ever seen. But I was beginning 
to wonder just why the hell Thorpe 
was putting his secretary through 
an inquisition. 

"The. . .the girl went into the 
boy's arms," Rhonda said, "And 
then he kissed her." 

"Yes, go on." 

"I. . .his face was rough, as if 
he had shaved but not too closely. 
There was the smell of aftershave 
on his face, I remember, and an old 
leather smell about him, somehow. 
You know what I mean. A very 
. . .masculine smell." 



I looked at the girl in astonish- 
ment, beginning to understand just 
exactly what Ilayden had accom- 
plished. 

"His arms were very strong," she 
said. "They'd been coated with al- 
cojcl, you know the odor. He'd 
been smoking before that, and I 
could. . .could taste the tobacco on 
his mouth. It. . .it was very nice." 
She paused, seeming to wander in- 
to a reverie. "Very nice." 

"Thank you, Rhonda," Hayden 
said. "You may go now." Hayden 
could hardly contain himself until 
the door slid shut behind her. 
"Well, Van?" he asked, a smile 
mushrooming over his face. 

"I don't believe it," I said. "It 
was a put up job." 

"God's truth," Hayden said. 
"The gal saw the show yesterday. 
I haven't spoken to her since." 

I digested this for about three 
seconds. "Father," I said, "you're 
a crazy, drug-loving, psyched-up 
illidge, but I love you! Jesus, this 
will set the industry. . ." 

". . .on its arse. Just what I 
said. Individual senso's, Van. The 
men live a completely different ex- 
perience than the women. I've 
brought viewpoint to the senso's, 
Van. It overwhelms me when I 
think of it. I'm a goddamned 
genius!" 

"Genius! You're going to be a 
millionaire, you crazy stud. You're 
going to have more money than 
God!" 

Hayden turned to his assistant. 
"Take a pow, Lawrence," he said. 

"Yes, sir," Lawrence answered 
obediently. He walked to the door 
and left soundlessly. Hayden's face 
turned suddenly serious. 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



15 



"You think I've got something, 
Van?" 

"Got something? Hayden, this is 
the most terrific thing I've ever. . .** 

"I need money," he said quickly. 



HE SHOCKED ME for a mo- 
ment. Hayden had been pro- 
ducing senso's for a long time now. 
If there was anyone I thought was 
comfortably fixed, it was him. 
"You're kidding," I said, 

"No. No, I'm straight, Van." 

"Money? You?" 

"My habit is long and strong," 
he said. "Corradon." 

"Oh." Conadon was a synthetic 
drug. It cost a hell of a lot, even 
now that narcotics were legal. A 
corradonict needed a pile, and he 
needed a pile measured in miles. 

"This thing is the biggest," he 
said. "There's plenty in it for both 
of us. You back me, Van, and 
we're wedded." 

"Five-five?" I asked. 

"You know the idea itself rates a 
seven-three," Hayden said. "At 
least a six-four, anyway." He 
shrugged and spread his hands 
wide. "Without the rnoo, though, 
I've got nothing. You back me, and 
I'll make it an even split. 
Grooved?" 

"How much do you need?" 

"Two stones." 

"What!" 

"I thought I could get by on one, 
but it's impossible. Even cutting to 
the bone, it would come to at least 
a stone and a half." 

I shook my head. "I haven't got 
that kind of money, Hayden." 

"How much can you raise im- 
mediately?" 



"Nine hundred gee. Maybe." 
Hayden nodded. "That's not 
bad. That's only a gee short of a 
stone. Can we raise the other 
million?" 

He looked at me, saw the dubious 
look on my face, and said, "Did 
you see the stars in that chick's eyes 
when she described the mush to 
you? Did you ever see anyone look 
like that talking about an ordinary 
senso? Hell, Van, you saw the show 
yourself, Was it, or wasn't it?" 

"It was." 

"Did it fix you?" 

"It fixed me. It was doom. But 
two stones. . ." 

"You said you could raise close 
to one. That leaves a million to 
go. If you can get the nine hundred 
gee by the end of the week, we can 
start production. We'll need an- 
other half stone by the end of the 
month, and the remainder for the 
bally just before release. That 
won't be for another six months, at 
least." 

"How long did it take you to 
make the pilot?" I asked. 

"Three months." 

"And you figure on a full-length 
feature in six months? Father, what 
are you mixing?" 

"All right, the pilot you just saw 
was a fifteen minute show. But we 
were working out a lot of bugs, and 
the medium was new. There'll be 
no guessing on the fcatch, Van. 
We've got it down pat. When I 
say six months, I mean six months. 
Not a day over." 

"What about scribes?" 

"That's your end. You're a liter- 
ary agent, aren't you?" 

"How many will we need?" 

"I used a team of six men and 



16 



EVAN HUNTER 



six women for the pilot. Wc need 
both, you know. This takes a spe- 
cial kind of writing. Van, you don't 
know die half of it." 

"I know we won't get six of each 
for less than a stone. My seribes 
are high-priced, Hayden." 

"Can't you — " 

"I'm their agent. I work for 
them, remember?" 

"Then get some low-priced 
seribes. Get one of each, a man and 
a woman. They don't have to be 
terrific. The medium will carry the 
lousiest writing, as long as it's suited 
to the process. Besides, it's new. 
There are no experienced scribes 
for this sort of tiling." 

"How high can we go?" 

"You're not thinking of your 
goddamned commish. are you?" 

"Hell, no! I want to know who I 
can get. For that, I want to know 
what I can pay." 

"All right. We can go to twenty 
gee." 

"Per." 

"I was thinking of twenty gee for 
both. If we have to make it per, 
okay." Hayden smiled. "It's your 
money, Van." 

"Yeah." I stood up and took his 
hand. "Deal?" I asked. 

"Deal," he said. 

"Real," I acknowledged. "I'll 
have the moo by the end of the 
week. Nine hundred gee. Another 
live hundred by the end of the 
month, and the rest in six months 
or so." 

"Right." 

"I see the light, father." 

"Call me, Van," he said. "This 
thing is big." 

"Your language is small," I said. 
"This thing is doom!" 



Ill 

I CALLED Bruce Alloway from a 
pay phone. When his picture 
and voice came on, I said, "I'm 
using our usual scrambler. Want to 
tune in?" 

"Hush stuff?" he asked. 

"Much hush. Mush, Bruce." 

"Sure," he said. 

I pressed a combination of but- 
tons on the face of the instrument. 
That would scramble my voice so 
that only Bruce, after adjusting his 
own set to decode, would receive 
my message. 

"Okay?" I asked. 

"Grooved." 

"Fine. You still want to take a 
pow on Lana Davis?" 

"I'd love to. How?" 

"I've got something big for you. 
It'll mean a cut, though." 

"How much of a cut?" 

"Down to twenty gee." 

"That's a mean slash, father." 

"I know. Do you want it?" 

Bruce shook his head. "I'd sure 
like to get from under that chick, 
Van. But twenty gee. Hell, after 
taxes, I'll have marbles." 

"This is the biggest goddamned 
thing you've ever fallen into," I 
said harshly. "I can get sixty seribes 
who'll do it for nothing, just for 
what it'll bring them later on. If 
you don't want it, I'll look else- 
where. So long, Bruce." 

"Hey, hold on, father!" 

"What is it?" 

"Well chop a little more about 
it. Be fair, Van." 

"I can't chop on the phone." 

"You're scrambled, Van. Hell 

"Even scrambled. Look, think it 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



17 



over. I'm your agent, and I say 
this is hot. You can remember who 
pulled you out of the pabacks, or 
you can donut-Icap." 

"Van, give mc a chance to — *' 

"I'll see you at Deborah's to- 
night. I'll tell you more then. But 
only if you're in. If you're cool, 
fool, this is too hot to spread 
around. You follow?" 

"All the way. It's big, huh, 
Van?" 

"Bigger than birth." 

"But a cut in cash." 

"It'll be the smartest move you 
ever made. Think about it." 

I clicked off, smiling to myself. 
I stepped out of the boodi, walked 
through the store and out onto the 
curb. I grabbed the first pneumo- 
tube that came by, punching the 
tabs near my scat as soon as I'd 
dropped in my coin. In three min- 
utes, we'd traveled three miles, and 
I cursed the snail's pace until I re- 
membered I was down on the fifth 
level. The signal light near my scat 
blared red, and I rose as the door 
slid open. I stepped onto the curb, 
looked for the numbers on the 
buildings, found the one I wanted, 
and walked inside. 

My heels echoed on the marble 
floors as I walked down the corri- 
dor. I passed two Ree's in the hall- 
way, complete with shirts and tics, 
and wearing— of all goddamned 
things — hats. They studied the hair 
on my chest with obvious distaste, 
wrinkled their noses, and hurried 
off down the hallway. I shrugged, 
and then walked into the reception 
room of Barton and Houston, my 
accountants. 

A redheaded switchboard opera- 
tor, her skin tinted an offcolor 



green, sat with her hands darting 
out for rubbery, snakelikc connec- 
tions. Her shoulders were bare, as 
were hex breasts, and she had left 
the skin between her collar bones 
and the lower side of her bosom its 
natural shade. The effect was a bit 
startling, and I glanced at it ap- 
preciatively. 

She plugged one of the connec- 
tions into a hole on the board. 

"Barton and Houston, good af- 
ternoon." 

I looked at my wrist chron. 
Damn if it wasn't thirtcen-tcn al- 
ready. I whistled tunelessly while 
she disposed of the lights flickering 
on her board. When she turned to 
me, I said, "Jo Houston, please." 

"Who's calling, sir?" 

"Van Brant." 

"Just a moment, sir." 



I WALKED OVER to the long 
window looking out over the 
criss-crossed, seemingly haphazard 
ribbons that wound through the sky 
above and below the fifth level. 
Stretching from the third level up 
to the ninth, I saw the full-length 
figure of the star of one of the 
stereoshows playing on the seventh 
level. As I watched, the gigantic 
figure sucked in a deep breath. Her 
breasts moved suggestively, and her 
navel filled with shadow. 

"Mr. Brant?" 

I turned away from the window 
and the poster art, and walked back 
to the redhead, who was real. 

"Yes?" 

"Mr. Houston will see you now, 
sir." She smiled, and I smiled back 
and walked through the gate and 
into Jo's office. He was sitting be- 



18 



EVAN HUNTER 



hind a cluttered desk, with an enor- 
mous ledger opened before him. 
When I eamc in, he rose and ex- 
tended his hand. 

"Van, you old illidge! How goes 
the body?" 

"Ticking and clicking, no kick- 
ing. And you?" 

"Sound and round, like money 
found. What brings you, Van?" 

"Business." 

"Oh?" 

"Liquidation," I said flatly. 

"Huh?" 

"I need cash fast, Jo. I want you 
to get rid of all my holdings. I 
need close to a stone by Saturday." 

Jo whistled softly. "In a jam?" 

"No. Business." 

"Sounds good." 

"It is. Can you do it for me?" 

He spread the fingers of one 
hand wide. "Sure," Then he cock- 
ed his head to one side, his deep 
brown eyes set into the layers of 
flesh on his face. "Anything that 
might interest me?" 

"Sorry, Jo." 

Jo smiled. "Okay, okay." He 
held up his palm like a traffic robot. 
"So what's new otherwise?" 

"Nothing much. You?" 

"A few new accounts. You know 
Steele and Dawes?" 

"Advertising?" 

"Yes. Enormous. The boys who 
finally broke through the prohibish 
lobby. We just got them." 

"Oh yes, of course. The ones 
who started the new swing in liquor 
advertising." 

Jo nodded. "You remember what 
the ads used to be like. 'For mellow 
flavor' or 'for a taste treat.' Any- 
thing but what they really wanted 
to say." He chuckled amiably. "I'll 



never forget the first one, Van. The 
liquor was Daley's. Steele and 
Dawes plastered the town with tri- 
dim bottles. Everywhere you look- 
ed, a bottle was staring down at 
you. And all the copy said was: 
'Daly's makes you drunker' n hell!' " 

He laughed aloud, and I laughed 
with him, remembering what a fur- 
or that first honest whiskey ad had 
caused. When we'd quieted down, 
I said, "By Saturday then, Jo. You 
won't let me down?" 

"Have I ever?" 

"No." 

"I won't start now." 

"Grooved. I'll see you." 

IV 

THE PARTY was a sumptuous 
thing, but then all of Deborah 
Dean's parties were. 

She'd had one complete wall of 
the living room knocked down for 
the occasion, replacing it with a 
clear pane of plexoid that ran the 
length of the room. Her apartment 
was swank, very, high up on the 
fifteenth level, looking down over 
the city and the river. When I 
came in with Lizbcth on my arm, 
the lights were low in the room, and 
the city twinkled and sparkled out- 
side the plexoid sheet like a galaxy 
of blazing, multi-colored suns. 

Deborah spotted us the moment 
we came through the door and hur- 
ried over. She was the only woman 
I knew who could carry off green 
eyes and a blue skin tint well. Her 
breasts were spattered with spark- 
ling gold dust, the nipples luminous 
in the dim light of the room. Her 
skirt was long in the back, almost 
trailing the floor, gashing upward 



20 



EVAN HUNTER 



in a wide V that terminated at her 

waist in the front. 

"Van," she cried, "How good!" 

I took the hand she extended, 
and smiled cordially. "Deborah, 
this is Lizbcth." 

Deborah grinned, and her eyes 
roamed Lizbcth's body candidly. I 
had to admit that Liz bad really 
outdone herself tonight. She had a 
thin blue, shimmering strip of plas- 
tic decorously clinging to her 
breasts. She had chosen a peach 
skin tint, and bad contrasted it with 
a pitch-black skirt that ended on 
her thighs. Her lips matched the 
ptastk Strip, and she*d done her 
hair to go with the skirt. We'd 
had a fix at her place, and her eyes 
sparkled behind their blue con- 
tacts. Even Deborah was im- 
pressed. 

She smiled again. "What's your 

pleasure?" 

"We've been fixed," I told her. 
"Maybe later." 

"You know where the bar is. Just 
help yourself. I've got a wonderful 
senso for later, and something new 
in a tri-dim. And. oh, Pve got some 
desti uciivr tapes, V an, I hi vei y 

latest sound." Sin- < I' 

ecstatically. "Doom, pure doom." 

"I'll be listening." I paused. "I'd 
like to talk to you later, Deb." 
"Why not now?" 
"Alone," I said. 

She patted mv cheek, her hand 
cool and firm, a sensuous musky 
perfume rising from its palm. "As 
a matter of fact, I want to talk to 
you, too. When the senso is show- 
ing, grooved? Hut I hate to have 
you miss it. It really is good." 
"I'll sec it some other time." 
"All right. Van. I'll look 



later." 

She waved and was gone, ready 
to greet anothei pair of guests. 

"She's nice," Lizbcth said. "I 
like her stomach. Who does it for 
her?" 

"I don't know. I didn't see any- 
thing unusual about it." 

"Didn't you notice? It was beau- 
tiful, Van, really. I'm surprised 
you didn't notice." 

'There's Rog Brooks," I said. 

"Who?" 

"Brooks. You know him. The 
big psych. I wonder what the hell 
lie's doing here*" 

"Why not? Psychs arc human." 

"Are they?" 

Lizbcth giggled and took my 
arm. "Come on," she said, "let's 
mingle." 



"E WALKED across the room 
to where a small clique had 
got a song going. We listened to 
one chorus and joined in* on the 
refrain: 
"Pop it, moppet, 
Stick it in your vein. 
Push it in and pull it out 
And stick it in again 
Mass it, gas it, 
Dost thou pass it? 
Never! 
;\, verl 

Naaaaaay, fa-ther, 
NAY!" 
We all enjoyed a good laugh, and 
then a tall, dark-haired boy in sil- 
ver breeches began improvising a 
chorus: 

"There once was a Ree man 

named Ditto!" 
"Oh, yes," we chanted. 
"Who strolled on the old 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



21 



bal-colino." 
"Yes." 

"lie tripped on his clothes, 
And ruptured his nose 
In a most realistic fash-ino! 
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. . r 
He signaled for us to all join in, 
and we started once more with, 
"Pop it, moppet, stick it in your 
vein . . ." 



ALL LAUGHED at the 
end of the refrain, and then 
a girl with pink shells on her nipples 
took up another chorus, a bit raw 
this time, but still funny. We were 
in the middle of another refrain 
when I saw Bruce Alloway come 
into the room. I excused myself 
and started for the door, the sound 
of the singing behind me. 

I grabbed Bruce by the arm be- 
fore he'd had a chance to say hello 
and began steering him toward a 
dark corner. 

"Hey," he complained, "what 
the hell's the rush?" . . 

"You want to hear thk, or don't 
you?" 

"Sure, sure. But I want to taste 
some of this new stuff I hear Deb- 
orah's got. Hell, father, I haven't 
had a 6x since noon in prepara- 
tion." 

"All right, go pop. But hurry 
back, liruce." 

"Sure," he said, looking at mc 
curiously. "Sure." 

He started toward the bar, wav- 
ing his hand in greeting as he 
passed Rog Brooks, the psych. I 
followed Bruce with my eyes until 
he reached the bar, and then lost 
him in the cluster of people there. 
When I swung my eyes back. I 



realized that Brooks was heading in 
my direction. I turned my head 
away, pretending to look through 
the plexoid at the city. But he'd al- 
ready spotted me, so I gave it up 
and loined my girds. 

"Hello, there, Brant," he called. 

I looked up feigning surprise. 
"Well, hello, Brooks. Long time no. 
Pull up." 

"Thanks." He hooked a small 
foam cushion with his toe, pulled it 
toward him, and plopped down on 
it. Brooks was a tall, thin man 
with eager eyes set in an intense 
face. He sported a vandyke care- 
fully trimmed on his chin and he- 
wore his hair in its natural shade, 
a deep black that hugged his scalp 
like a helmet. He cocked one raven 
brow and said, "Nice party." 

"Not bad," I admitted. "I didn't 
know you knew Deborah." 

"Oh yes," Brooks said. "Quite 
well." He passed a clawlike hand 
over his naturally hairy chest, 
scratched idly at one pectoral. "One 
of my favorite patients, in fact." 

"That right?" 

"Yes." 

I felt somehow uneasy. I wasn't 
used to psychs, and I'd never held 
a lengthy conversation with one. 
Brooks seemed to be experiencing 
the same discomfort. We sat and 
stared at each other while a few 
long minutes dragged their feet la- 
boriously through a field of mol- 
asses. 

Finally, I said, "So how's the 
psych business these days?" 

He shrugged his broad shoulders. 
"Not too good. Not for a Vike 
man, anyway. The Ree boys seem 
to be getting all the work." 

I wondered if he were kidding, 



22 



EVAN HUNTER 



but I didn't express skepticism. 
"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"It's a question of finding a 
norm," he said slowly. 

"I still don't groove." 

Brooks spread his palms wide. "I 
was taught in a Ree school, Van. 
Got my liah from a Rec college, my 
Mud from a Rce medical school 
and all my specialized training at 
Ree clinics. The emphasis was a 
little different." 

"How so?" 

"Great god Freud. Chew a ci- 
gar? Yovi were weaned too early. 
Wash your hands often? You're a 
mastur. Glove anesthesia? You've 
got a gniltplex. You know the Ree 
pitch." 

"So?" 

"So along come the Vikes. And 
everybody flees into a dream world. 
Your norm is kicked in the arse." 

I didn't say anything, because I 
still didn't know what he was talk- 
ing about. 

"Look at it this way. You estab- 
lish a pattern. The majority of peo- 
ple don't go around picking their 
noses on pneumotubes. All right, 
this is the norm. You get a guy who 
does pick his nose, he's a dcleg for 
a booby bin. But what happens 
when the norm is reversed? What 
happens when everyone seeks the 
world heretofore reserved for the 
schizoid? Who's normal then? And 
how do you treat the person who 
isn't?" 

"Are you saying that Vikes are 
. . .mentally unbalanced?" 

Brooks smiled thinly. "I'm a Vike 
myself. It's been ten years since I've 
touched a woman or wanted to 
touch one. I've been a morphict 
for three years, a herrict for four, 



and I've been on corradon for the 
last three, ever since it hit the mar- 
ket. My biggest charge is the sen- 
so's, but I'm not above reading the 
pabacks. A wild tape still gets a 
rise out of me. I know all the tricks 
and all the gimmicks. I've even 
come along with the language, 
which was probably the hardest 
part. Who am I to say Vikes are 
nuts?" 

"What are you saying then?" 

"I'm not saying anything. I 
came here tonight for the same 
thing you did. Something like a cat 
house, isn't it?" 

"Listen, Brooks. . ." 

"All right, you don't like what 
I'm saying. I don't much like it, 
either. I keep thinking about to- 
morrow, though. And the to- 
morrow after that. And tomorrow 
and tomorrow and tomorrow. 
What's the step beyond schizophre- 
nia? Or mania? I'm afraid it's ca- 
tatonia— and that means doom." 
He saw the look on my face. "I'm 
not using it in the Vike sense, 
Brant. E mean doom. Plain old 
doom. The end. Finis. Pffft!" 

"You through?" 

"Sure, sure, I'm through. I un- 
derstand Deb has some new stuff at 
the bar." He stood wearily and his 
eyes met mine for an instant, and 
then fled into their own retreat. 
"Maybe I'll try some. So long, 
Brant." He turned abruptly. 

"There was a young Ree girl 
who knew it!" 

"Oh } yes." 

"But didn't quite know how to 
do it' 

"Yes.' 

"She sought an advisor 
Who quickly did size her . . " 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



23 



Amid the laughter and the bub- 
bling sound of voices lifted in song, 
in the dim lights glinting on sc- 
quined and painted bosoms, among 
my fellows and friends, in my 
world, 1 watched Rog Brooks 
shoulder his way to the bar, a tall 
man walking with his head bent 
and his fists clenched. A strange 
man with strange ideas. But maybe, 
I thought, I shouldn't have been so 
short with him. He was different, 
at least. . . 



I CLOSED my eyes for an instant, 
and the song echoed in my ears, 
and suddenly there was a cool hand 
on my bare flesh, and the aroma of 
Lizbeth's perfume in my nostrils. 

I shrugged her hand away. 

"Don't paw me," I said. 

"Sorry, father. You look sad. 
Want to pop?" 

"No." 

Liz giggled. "I got a confession. 
I already did. The new stuff. It's 
doom, Dad. Whoo!" 

"I want solo," I said. "Take a 
pow." 

"Sure, Van. They're starting a 
round of Goverup, anyway, and I 
want to get in on it." 

"Have fun," I said. 

She turned and walked away 
from me, lies hips swiveling, her 
high heels clicking against the mar- 
ble floor. I lowked across the room 
to the bar, saw Bruce elbow his way 
free, straighten his hair, and start 
over toward me. I stood up, walk- 
ed to meet him halfway, and said, 
"Let's step outside, Bruce. I don't 
want this overheard." 

"You act like a Martian spy," he 
said. 



"How the hell would you know 
what a Martian spy acts like?" 

"I read the sci-fix. Interesting." 

"That Rec feese?" 

"Listen," he said earnestly, "it's 
the closest thing the Rec's have to 
real Vike stuff. It's their one sal- 
vation." 

We'd reached the balcony, and I 
yanked open the manual sliding 
door, stepping outside into the 
night. A mild breeze played over 
the balcony, and Deborah had cov- 
ered the place with rose bushes that 
oozed their perfume onto the mild 
air. 

"So what's the big one?" Bruce 
asked. 

"A new senso. So big you can't 
imadgc, Bruce. Individual sensory 
experiences. Individual, Bruce. A 
man sees, feels, smells one thing. A 
woman another. Bruce, it's gigan- 
tic. It's like nothing we've got. I'm 
sinking all I own into ft. I need 
scribes." 

Bruce screwed up his black 
brows. He was a moment before 
answering. "You like it?" 

"Yes." 

"I'm in." 

"Just like that?" 

"My friend, before you came on 
the scene I was writing for the pa- 
backs. I made an average of fifteen 
gee a year, and you know how far 
that gets you. You came on then. 
Last year, I stacked close to half 
a stone. This year, with six months 
to go yet, I've made that much al- 
ready. I've never made a move you 
didn't suggest, and you've never 
suggested a move that wasn't 
right." Bruce shrugged, a little 
overwhelmed by his own sincerity. 
"You say this is big, it's big. You 



24 



EVAN HUNTER 



say I should get into it now, I get 
into it now. That's the way it is, 
Van. That's the kind of stupid bas- 
tard I am." 

I grinned "in the darkness. 
"That's Ree talk, Bruce." 

"All right, change it to 'stupid 
illidge.' It's still the way I am, so 
let's go inside and get into the 
Coverup. Christ, this is a dull 
party." 

I clapped him on the shoulder, 
and we started to head back for the 
party, and that was when I no- 
ticed how unusually quiet it was 
inside. Bruce must have detected 
the lack of sound at about the same 
time, because he turned to me with 
a puzzled expression on his face. 
Coverup is usually a pretty damned 
noisy game during the donning 
stage. The stripping half is so quiet 
you can hear a pin drop, but hardly 
enough time had progressed for the 
game to have been in that stage 
yet. As if by common consent, we 
ran for the doors and into the room. 

The first person I saw was Deb- 
orah, and her face showed pale 
even through the blue tint. I was 
starting toward her when a voice 
shouted, "Hey, here's two more of 
the bastards." 

I whirled rapidly, and then I un- 
derstood the silence in the room. 



THEY STOOD in the center of 
the room, four Rcc's, smug 
grins on their faces. They were 
fully clothed, of course, wearing 
shirts, jackets, flapping trousers. 
The apparent leader of the group, 
the one who had spoken, looked 
younger than the others. His blond 
hair tumbled over his forehead, and 



his eyes Insolently roamed the room, 
studying the naked bosoms of the 
women. 

I walked over to Deborah and 
asked, "Crashers, or did you invite 
them?" 

"My God, Van," she said. 

"Please!" 

"What's all the talk over there, 
Chesty?" the blond boy called. 

I turned and looked at him, and 
his friends formed behind him in a 
tight semi-circle. "You talking to 
mt, son?" 

"Yeah, you with all the hair on 
your chest, and the shiny muscles. 
What's with you and Big Bust 
there?" 

Deborah glanced self-consciously 
at her breasts, feeling the lust in the 
blond youth's eyes. I felt em- 
barassed for her, and I started 
across the room. 

"Ho, look," the blond shouted, 
"a hero in the crowd." 

I walked right up to him, and I 
heard Bruce padding across the 
floor behind mc. The boy was as 
tall as I was and had well-rounded 
muscles beneath the rough cloth of 
his jacket. His eyes were slate grey, 
and he carried his mouth like an 
open switch-knife. 

"Are you looking for trouble, 
son?" I asked. 

He grinned and nudged one of 
his pall in the ribs. "Listen to 
Shiny Skin," he said. "Yeah, mis- 
ter, we're looking for trouble." 

"You tame to the right place," 
I said softly. Bruce pulled up along- 
side me, but I didn't turn my head. 

"Hey, look at the blond hair and 
black eyebrows," one of the Rce's 
said, indicating Bruce. "That takes 
it, boy." He began laughing, and 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



25 



they all joined in. They'd obvious- 
ly been drinking heavily. 

"You'd better go," I said. "You'd 
better go damned fast." 

The blond boy thought that was 
hilarious. "Why?" he asked. "You 
gonna show me a movie or some- 
thing?" 

"Oh," I said, "I get it." 

He laughed again, sure of him- 
self now. "Listen to the tough 
Vike, boys. He gets all his fights 
from the stereos and senso's. That's 
the way he enjoys his fights." He 
turned a sneer on me. "You're 
scarin' me to death, mister." 

"Grooved," I said. "You figure 
because we get our action vicarious- 
ly we don't know how to get it any 
other way. Is that right?" 

"Yeah," he said quickly. He 
turned to the boys then and said, 
"Hey, you know what I'm gonna 
do? I'm gonna grab one of these 
nude babes and show her what a 
real. . ." 

That was when my fist collided 
with his mouth. 

I felt his lip split, and then the 
sharp edge of his teeth knifed into 
my skin. A blossom of blood sprout- 
ed on his mouth, and he brought 
up his hajid to his lips in surprise 
and terror. I slammed my other 
fist into his open hand, and his 
spread fingers tore into his flesh, 
almost gouging out his own eye. 
He backed up a few paces, and I 
jumped after him. I heard his pals 
yell something and grab for me, 
and then Bruce stepped into the 
picture and started throwing his 
weight around a little. 

I gave Blondie a pop in the eye 
that sent him staggering back to 
land right on his arse. He was 



ready to stand up when I lashed out 
with my boot and caught him on 
the point of the chin. After that, 
he wasn't ready to do anything. I 
turned quickly, about to take on 
another one, when 1 saw Rog 
Brooks run across the room and tear 
one of the Rec's from Bruce's back. 
I threw myself headlong at the 
closest Ree and began throwing 
fists at his head. I wasn't used to 
this because it had been a long 
time since I'd had any practice, but 
1 punched and I kicked, and I felt 
my blows crashing against solid 
flesh that began to crumble after a 
while. I kept hitting until my fists 
were covered with blood, until my 
breeches were torn, until the breath 
was raging in my lungs. And then 
I stopped because the flesh had al- 
ready crumbled and was lying on 
the floor in a bloody, sodden heap. 
I stood back then and looked 
around me at Bruce and Rog. 

"Let's get them out of here," I 
said hoarsely. 

We dragged them to the front 
door and stuck them on the lift, 
setting the tabs for the first level. 
The lift dropped out of sight with 
its cargo, and we went back into 
the room. 

Deborah rushed over to me and 
said, "Van, you were wonderful." 

"Those rotten bastards," I said. 
Midge simply wasn't strong enough, 
so I reverted to the Ree terminolo- 
gy. "Those filthy. . ." 

"If they come back," Bruce said, 
"they're dead. They're dead, Van, 
dead." His hands were trembling 
as he spoke, and there was a smear 
of blood stretching from his temple 
to his jaw. A murmur of conversa- 
tion sprang up around the room 



26 



EVAN HUNTER 



now, and someone put on a tape in 
an effort to relieve the strained at- 
mosphere. 

"Can we .wash up, Deb?" I 
asked. 

"Yes. Yes, of course. Come with 
me.** 



TE FOLLOWED HER, and 
she dropped Rog and Bruce 
off at the hall bathroom, and then 
led me to the private bathroom in 
her own bedroom. She sat on the 
bed while I washed, and talked to 
me through the open I u 1 1 1 room 
door. I let water into the sink and 
then plunged my hands into it, 
watching it turn muddy with blood. 

"This makes me wonder," she 
said. 

"About what?" 

"About whether I'm doing the 
right thing or not." 

"I'm lost, Deb." I splashed water 
onto my face, feeling it sting the 
cuts there. 

"I want to have a baby, Van.'* 

"What!" 1 jerked upright and 
looked at her, my face and hands 
dripping water onto the floor. 

"Yes, I want to very much." 

"Why?" 

"Well. . .I'm just tiied of. . .of 
senso's and. . .you know, all of it. 
I want something new." 

"Who's the lucky man?" I asked 
sarcastically, dipping into the water 
again. 

"Van, don*t make me vomit. It 
won't be that way at all." 

"No?" 

"No." She smiled playfully. 
"There arc only three men I'd even 
consider that with, anyway. Even 
if I were a Rcc." 



''Who?" I asked. 

"Jamie Grew. Know him?" 

"No. Who else?" 

"Rog Brooks." 

"Oh." 

"What docs that mean?" 

"Nothing. But I'll bet he's the 
QUdge who talked you into this." 

"Well, in a way." 

"Who's the third man?" 

"You." 

I snorted and rinsed off my face. 

"Well, honey, you're barking up 
the wrong three." 

"I'm only joking. I'll go to the 
clinic, of course." 

"Mmm?" 

"Yes. In fact, I've already in- 
formed them. I'm enrolling in the 
next Inseminar." 

I snapped on the ultra-vi and 
stepped into the field, rubbing my 
hands as the rays dried me. "That's 
the next step above a Rce," I said. 
"Next thing you know, you'll be 
mating in an alley." 

"Van, for God's sake! You say 
the goddamndest things." 

"Well it's the truth." I shrugged. 
"Is this what you wanted to talk to 
me about?" Y 

"Yes. I haven't told anyone yet, 
not even Rog. I wanted to hear 
what you thought of it." 

"Well, now you know." 

"And I'm going to do it anyway." 

"Go right ahead. Your womb, 
your tomb." I stepped out of the 
field and snapped off the ray. I 
looked at my torn breeches. "I don't 
suppose you've an extra pair in the 
house." 

"No. Sorry." 

"Didn't expect you to." I tried to 
pull the tear together, gave it up 
as a sorry job, and said, "I wanted 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



27 



to talk to you, too, Deb." 

"What about?" 

"Money." 

"What about money?" 

"I need a stone. Can you lend it 
to mc?" 

"Arc you in trouble?" 

"No." 

"Then why do you need that 
much moo?" 

"I need it." 

Deborah hesitated. "I might be 
able to scrape it together." 

"How soon?" 

"How soon do you need it?" 

"Immediately." 

"That gives me a lot of time," 
she said snidcly. 

"All right, six months. No later." 

"That's a little better. In six 
months, I should be pregnant." ■ 

"Must wc talk about that?" 

"No, of course not. I'll have the 
money for you, Van. Is that bet- 
ter?" 

I grinned. 'That's much better." 

Deborah rose, brushed a fleck of 
dirt from her breast and said, 
"Done. Shall we join the party?" 

My grin got bigger. I was think- 
ing of the stone she'd promised me 
within six months, and I was think- 
ing of the way Haydcn Thorpe and 
I would parlay that moo into a nice 
pile. Individual Sensory Produc- 
tions. 

And all Deborah could think 
about was having a baby! 



ACTUALLY, the four Ree 
crashers were one of the clear- 
est omens, but you never see things 
in their true light until they're over 
and done with — and then it's too 



late. 

Jo Houston called me the next 
day, shortly after my noon fix. His 
face was troubled, and his eyes 
were weary. For a moment, I 
thought he'd gone without a fix, 
but then I noticed the empty vial 
on his desk. 

"What is it, Jo?" I asked. 

"I'm having a rugged go, Van." 

"Spell it." 

"Your holdings. I can't get rid 
of them." 

I looked at his face hard to see 
if he was kidding. "What the hell 
are you talking about, Jo?" 

"The stuff. No buyers." 

"No buyers? Hop down, father, 
and jest mc not! I'm in no mood 
for—" 

"Bible stuff, Van, s'help me. I've 
been shagging since yesterday. The 
market's dim." 

"Then you haven't been shagging 
hard enough. What the hell's the 
matter with you, Jo? The stuff I've 
got is the hottest you can get to- 
day." 

"Maybe." 

"Listen, stop crypticlipping. 
Shoot it to mc straight." 

"All right. You loincd?" 

"Shoot, goddamnit!" 

Jo began ticking the points off on 
his fingers. 

Item A: three hundred shares 
Sappho Stereos. Dead ducks." 

"How so?" 

"No buyers. Hold it. Van, don't 
blowtop. I tried everywhere, and 
I mean everywhere. I couldn't even 
sell them for a fifty percent loss." 

"You mean you offered that?" 

"As a last resort. Van, the mar- 
ket is tighter than a Rce's neck- 
tie." 



28 



EVAN HUNTER 



"More, father." 

"Item B: twenty-two shares Ar- 
bac Press. Dead ducks, I shopped 
all over town. No one's interested." 

"That's impossible! Arbac is one 
of the best paback outfits in the 
field. You sure this isn't a gag, 
Jo?" 

"1 never kid where it concerns 
money," Jo said seriously. 

"All right. Read it." 

"Item C: fifty-seven shares Dale 
Cosmetics. I got rid of twenty. You 
know what you can do with the 
other thirty-seven." 

"What'd you raise?" 

"One." 

"A thousand? For twenty shares 
of Dale? Holy Christ, Jo, are you 
losing your marbles?" 

"I didn't say a thousand. I said 
'one.* One hundred, Van. One 
clam. Count it." 

"One clam! Look, Jo — " 

"I'm lucky I got that. You've 
got no idea what it's like, Van. So 
help mc, I don't like it." 

"You don't like it? You don't 
like it? It's only my goddamned 
money you're throwing around, 
that's all. It's only — " 

"Cool, Van." 

"Cool my big kecster! Listen, Jo, 
you're paid to handle my affairs. If 
I ever made a deal like that for one 
of my clients, I'd be hanged on 
Times Square the next day. What 
the hell do you think this is: Par- 
chesi?" 

"Van, I tell you — " 

"You tell mc horscmanure! I'm 
telling you, goddamnit And you'd 
damn well better listen. I've got 
stock worth at least 700 gee. I want 
900 gee, and a good man should be 
able to raise that. If you're not a 



good man, you're not the man for 
me. There are approximately eight 
thousand accountants in this city, 
Jo, and — " 

"Easy, Van, easy. I'm — " 
"Easy, nothing. I'll give you un- 
til tomorrow. That's Wednesday. 
If you can't produce by then, you 
can close out my account and go 
back to filing income tax returns at 
fifty cents a throw!" 

"That's not fair, Van — " 

"It may not be fair, but it's the 
way it is. I want at least 500 gee 
by tomorrow. If you get that much, 
I'll give you 'till Saturday to get 
the rest. If you can't, goodbye, Jo; 
it's been, but it ain't no mo." 

"Van—" 

I clicked off before he could pro- 
test, and then I went over to the 
bar and shot up a booster. When 
the buzzer on my desk sounded, I 
nearly tore off the switch answer- 
ing. 

"Yes!" I shouted. 

"Ouch!" Lizbcth said. 

"What is it, Liz?'* I answered 
harshly. 

Her voice was surprised. "I did 
something, Van?" 

"You did naught. You buzzing 
to be sociable or have you got some- 
thing on your mind?" 

"Van. . ." 

"Come on, Liz, I haven't got all 
day!" 

"Yes, sir," Her voice was shocked 
now, and a little hurt. "There's 
someone to see you, sir." 

"I'm not in." 

"She said it was important." 

"I'm still not in." 

"Sir, she — " 

"Listen, Liz, do I have to send 
a diag with everything I say? I'm 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



29 



not in! That goes for this chick, and 
the President, and even Dino Bela- 
zi. I'm out. I'm not in. Does that 
make sense?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Fine, fine. I'm glad I speak 
English." 

"Yes, sir." 

"Is that all?" 

"Ye— ■" 

"AH right. Don't disturb me for 
the next hour or so." 

I clicked off and began pacing 
the rug. How the hell was a man 
supposed to get anything done 
when he was surrounded by idiots? 
Imagine Jo selling twenty shares of 
Dale for a clam! A dam! And he 
called himself an accountant. A 
shoe shine boy could have got at 
least five, and — 

The door behind me opened 
swiftly, and I turned with my fists 
clenched as it slid shut again. 

"I thought I told you not to . . ." 

The girl standing there was not 
Uzbcth. 



SHE WAS TALL, with her red 
hair pulled to one side of her 
neck, trailing down over one naked 
breast. He breasts were firm and 
high, concentrically ringed in var- 
ious hues. Her stomach was bare 
and fiat, etched with a deep naval. 
Her skirt was shorter than a good 
many skirts I'd seen, and she wore 
six inch spikes with ankle straps. 

I stared at her for an instant. 

"Who the hell are you?" I 
shouted. 

"Lois Sylvan." 

"Who?" 

"Lois Sylvan." 

"Do you know what doors are 



for, Miss Sylvan? They keep 
people out. I told my secretary I 
wasn't to be disturbed. I wasn't kid- 
ding. Now if you* 11 swing your 
keester out of here, I'll be much 
obliged." 

"I thought you'd be interested," 
she said archly. 

I looked her over again. "What- 
ever you're selling, I'm not inter- 
ested." 

"We're even. I'm not selling." 

I looked at her again. "Am I sup- 
posed to know you or something? 
I'm not good at guessing games." 

"Lydia Silverstein," she said 
quickly. 

"Lydia wh — " I closed my mouth 
and looked her over again. Yes, the 
red hair was certainly hers, and the 
long legs, and. . .but. . . 

"Well. You've changed." 

"My name, too. Not legally yet. 
I've assumed it by common law, 
and I've already got a shyst to bring 
it to court." 

"Good. So?" 

"I've bared my. . .I've taken off 
my blouse, and I've shortened my 
skirt. I tried morphine today. I 
did just what you said." 

"So?" 

"Well. . X . .I'm ready to be- 
gin." 

"Begin what?" 

"You said — " 

"Miss Silverstein, or Sylvan, or 
whatever-thc-hell, this is not a Ree 
convertorium. I run a business, and 
I don't have to — " 

"But you said — " 

"I know what I said. I also told 
you to kick out your mate. Did you 
do that?" 

Her eyes began to cloud, and her 
lower lip trembled a little. "I. . . 



30 



EVAN HUNTER 



1 didn't have one." 

"Fine! You had nothing to lose 
then, did you? The fact remains 
that I can't play father-confessor to 
every Rcc who decides to chuck it 
all. Miss, I'm right now in the mid- 
dle of something — " 

She started to cry. 

Just like that. 

It had been such a long time 
since I'd seen any woman cry that 
I almost didn't believe it. 

"Hey!" I said. 

"Oh, shut up," she blubbered. 

"Well, look. . ." 

"Don't talk to inc." she said be- 
tween sobs. 

"Well, don't cry," I offered lame- 
ly. "Save that for the stercosoaps. 
Come on, now, Miss. Miss, you 
shouldn't. . ." 

"I did what you said," she blub- 
bered. "I did just what you said. 
Now I'm here, and I feel so cheap 
and so. . .so. . .naked, and you 
don't even. . .you don't even. . ." 

I walked over to her and put my 
arm around her shoulder. "Look, 
Miss, please, don't cry. There's no 
need for that, really. Please, now, 
please." 

"I feel awful," she whimpered. 

"There, there, I'll help you. 
Don't worry. I said I'll help you, 
and I will." 

"You will?" 

"Of course I will. We can use 
good female scribes. I said I'd 
help, and I've never gone back on 
my word. I was just feeling sort of 
grumpy, that's all." 

"You'll really help mc write?" 
she asked. She looked for a pocket, 
found none, and wiped her tears 
with the back of one hand. 

"Yes, I wilL" I said. "Yes, I—" 



A thought hit me. Full-blown. 
Right out of the air. 

"Yes, by God," I said. "Yes, I 
will!" I thought of the twenty gee 
we were paying Bruce Alloway for 
his writing on the new show. And 
Hayden was looking to cut costs. I 
grinned amiably and asked, Miss 
Sylvan. . .Lois. . .how would you 
like to earn a cool live gee?" 

Her eyes opened wide, and her 
lashes batted frantically for a mo- 
ment. "Five. . .five. . .?" 

"Five gee. Five thousand skins. 
All yours. All for your hot little 
hands. How about it?" 

She gulped hard. "For writing?" 

"What else?" I asked. 

For a moment, I thought she 
would faint. Instead, she gulped 
again, and her eyes were incredibly 
green and incredibly wet behind 
their thick lashes. She opened her 

c r 1 i i to answer, but when no 

words came, she simply nodded her 
head weakly. 

"Fine!" J- shouted. "Terrific." 

I stabbed the button on my desk 
and Liz came on. 

"Sir?" 

"Liz, honey," I said, "I want you 
to call Hayden Thorpe for me." 

"Sir?" Her voice brightened. 

"I want you to call him, sweet- 
ness, and tell him I've got the two 
scribes he wanted. Tell him one of 
them is Bruce Alloway, and red off 
Bruce's credits to him. Mention the 
After Dark thing, Liz. That was 
really big." 

She sounded quite happy now. 
"Yes, Van." 

"And then tell him I've discover- 
ed a fabulous new female scribe. 
Tell him she's the greatest thing 
Since transundics — " 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



31 



"Van!" 

" — the best damned scribe since 
Shakespeare, the best darned dis- 
covery since corradon. Tell him 
she's starting at once, and that Tve 
had to go to five gee, but that 
she's worth every penny. Tell him 
I'm clearing up the other details 
now, and that we'll be ready to roll 
on Sunday." 

"Yes, Van." 

"And tell him, Liz; tell him her 
name is. . ." I snapped my fingers, 
and the redhead fluttered her eye- 
lashes. 

"Lydia," she said. "No, Lois. 
Lois Sylvan." 

"Lois Sylvan, Liz." 

"Lois Sylvan," Liz repeated. 

"Remember that name, Liz. Re- 
member it well. This little lady is 
going to have that name in lights 
soon. Lois Sylvan. Magnificent. 
Make that call now, Liz, and 
double it." 

She clicked off, and I turned to 
the redhead. 

"Well, Miss Sylvan," I said. 
"Tins is the beginning. You're on 
your way." 

Miss Sylvan didn't answer. Miss 
Sylvan was too busy holding her 
breath and giving herself a great 
big healthy mental pinch. 

VI 

JO CALLED ME at thirteen the 
next day. 
"Hello, Van." He was beaming 
broadly, and good news was scrawl- 
all over his face. 

"What's the snap, pap?" 
"I've got a buyer." 
"Good. How much did you 
raise?" 



"You sitting, Van?" 

"Why?" 

Jo grinned secretively. "How 
much did you want me to raise? 
For the lot, I mean." 

"You know how much. Stop 
catenmousing." 

"You wanted 900 gee, right?" 

"That's right, Jo. Gorne on." 

"I got a stone and two." 

"What?" 

"A stone and 200 gee, that's 
right. And I managed to buy back 
that twenty shares of Dale and 
throw that into the package, too. 
Who's the hottest accountant in 
town, boy?" 

"A stone and two! Jo, how'd you 
do it?" 

Jo smiled obliquely. "Trade Se- 
crets, lad." 

"Well, who's the buyer?" 

"An outfit called Ball Asso- 
ciates." 

I thought this over for a moment. 
"You mean Don Ball? That illidge 
will never make good, Jo. He hasn't 
got a cent to his — " 

"No, not Don Ball. This is a new 
outfit. I checked them thoroughly, 
Van. They've got more moo than 
God." 

"You sure?" 

"Positive. I saw their books. 
They're loaded, Van." 

"A corporation?" 

"Yes." 

"Who's behind it?" 

"I couldn't find out. Listen, 
their money is good. What the hell 
are you worried about?" 

"I just don't like doing business 
with shadows. Who do I sue if the 
check hops?" 

"It won't hop. I'll have it certi- 
fied." 



32 



EVAN HUNTER 



"Miuuhm." 

"What do you say, Van? This is 
damned good money. You said 
yourself you only expected to re- 
alize — " 

"And I was shooting high," I 
said, "just to get you to push." 

"So there. A stone and two is 
fabulous. Shall I close it?" 

"Ball Associates, huh?" 

"Ball Assoeiat.es." 

"Okay, Jo, close it. I want the 
check by seventeen tonight, and 
certified. I'll deposit it first thing in 
the morning. No delivery until I 
hear from the bank." 

"Even with a certified check?" 
Jo protested. 

"I'm cautious, father." 

"Cautious? Father, you're par- 
alyzed!" 

"Close the deal, Jo. And good 
work." 

"Thanks," he said drily. "You'll 
have the check by seventeen. One 
stone and two. Deal?" 

"Deal." 

"Real. Sec you, Van." 

VII 

HELLO, Haydcn?" 
"Here." 

"Scrambler twelve." 

"Grooved." 

I heard the scrambler clicking as 
Haydcn set it. I punched my own 
labs, waited for the picture to 
clear, and said, "Okay, father." 

"What?" 

"I'm on my way to the office. I 
just came from the bank." 

"And?" 

"Everything's fine. We've got a 
stone and two to play with. We can 
start rolling now, father!" 



VIII 

NO, NO, no, no, nonononono- 
no!" I shouted. I threw the 
pencil onto the floor and walked to 
the bar. 

"You still haven't got it! You're 
still turning out Rcc garbage. 
Goddamnit, Lo, you're back in the 
Middle Ages! You're giving me 
Charles Dickens!" 

"Dickens wasn't in the Middle 
Ages," Lois said coldly. 

"All right, then you're giving me 
Spenser." 

"He wasn't — " 

"1 don't give a damn! You're not 
giving me what I want. Is that 
clear.'"' 

"I don't think you know what 
you want," Lois said. She sat in a 
chair with her long legs crossed, the 
skirt opened javcr her thighs. She- 
wore no stockings, but a deep green 
garter set with a rhinestonc circled 
the flesh of one leg. Her breasts 
were done in two golden sunbursts, 
and the echo of a small burst shad- 
ed her navel. 

"I know what I need," I said. I 
opened my kit and selected a vial. 
"You're enough to make a man 
mix, I'll tell you that much." 

I popped oil, closed my eyes for 
a moment, and asked, "You had 
\ours?" 

"'This morning," she said. There 
was anger on her face. Her brows 
were pulled together tightly, and 
she carried her lower lip in a pout. 

"Have another,'" 1 said. 

"No, thank you." 

"What's the matter?" 

"Nothing." 

I walked to the desk and slapped 
the back of my hand onto her 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



33 






script. "You think this is good, is 
that it? You think this is deathless 
BEOSe. Yen think 

She stood up suddenly, and her 
breasts bobbed with her sudden 
fury. "Yes, if you must know. I 
think it's good. I think it's better 
than any of the crap—" 

"I'Vese," I corrected. 

" — any of the crap Bruce is turn- 
ing out. In fact, I think it's too 
good for-V' 

"I guess you don't like the smell 
of that five gee." 

"I think it's too good for. . ." 
She paused. She let out an exas- 
perated breath. Then she began 
pacing the floor. "It is good," she 
said. 

"It stinks," I told her. 

"It's just what you and Haydcn 
said you wanted." 

"It stinks." 

"It's the best I can do." 

"You*H have to do better." 

"I can't!" she fairly screamed. 

"You can." 

"I can't, can't can't. I've had 
enough. I can't take any more. Do 
it this way, do it that way. Change 
this, change that. How can a per- 
son write that way? How can any- 
one — " 

"Shut up, Lois." 

" — can anyone con. . .cen. . ." 
Her voice dropped to a whisper. 
She Bucked in a deep breath, passed 
a hand over the side of her face, 
and ;isked, "All right, how do we 

fix it?" 

That's my girl." 
"Never mind the feesc. How do 

fix it?" 

Listen to this: Darling, kiss me. 
'akc me in your arms." 
"What's wrong with it? 



"It's not loaded. We want some- 
thing like: Darling, put your mouth 
on mint, Cotftt mv Hps with yours. 
Crush me in your arms. Press me 
against your body and let me — " 

"I get it" she said dully. She 
took another deep breath. "Have 
you any morph, Van?" 

"I'm Mister Morph himself, 
honey." 

Lois smiled, but her eyes were 
dull. 

IX 

r' DOESN'T FIT," Bruce Allo- 
way said. 

"Then we'll make it fit." 

Bruce shook his head. We were 
alone in my office, and the city 
gleamed like a broad, jeweled tiara 
outside my window. The light over 
my desk cast a golden circle on the 
scripts scattered over the polished 
top. 

"It's no go, Van.* 

"Why not?" 

"Lois." 

"What's the matter with her?" 

"Nothing that talent wouldn't 
fix." 

"She's not that bad.' 

"Van, she's terrible. She's got 
Ree sentiments as long as my arm. 
And on top of that, she can't 
write." 

"You weren't so damned hot 
when I stumbled across you, 
either." 

"No, but I at least had the inclin- 
ation. She's got nothing. Sure, she 
tries, but that isn't enough. We'll 
never mate her words and mine, 
Van. Never.'* 

"You're wrong, Bruce. We damn 
well better mate them." 



34 



EVAN HUNTER 



"I tell you she's no good. Zero." 

"Lower your voice. She'll be here 
any sec." 

Bruce shook his head again. 
"Why are you keeping her, Van? 
You're not going Rec, arc you?" 

"Friend or no friend," I told him, 
"I can still punch you in the 
mouth." 

"All right, I'm sorry. Suppose 
tell me why?" 

"I'm paying her five gee. You're 
getting twenty. Is that good 
enough?" 

Bruce spread his hands wide. 
"The root of all. Sure, good 
enough. That means I'll have to 
work hard enough to earn fifty, 
while she ambles along earning 
about three clams worth. That 
sounds really fai — " 

A tapping sounded on the outer 
door, and I touched the lock re- 
lease on my desk. I heard the door 
slide open, heard the hurried click 
of high heels through the reception 
room. The door to my office slid 
wide then, and Lois came into the 
room. 

She was out of breath, and she 
carried a thick script under her 
arm. "Am I late?" 

"A little. Come on over." 

She walked to the desk and 
clumped the script under the lamp. 
"There it is, father. My sweat and 
blood. Now all we have to do is 
match it with Brace's." 

Bruce sighed painfully. "Yes," he 
he said. "That's all we have to do." 



HAYDEN THORPE sat in the 
big chair under the ceilamp. 
The shooting script was open in his 



lap, and his brow was furrowed in 
concentration. Lois, Bruce, and I 
sat opposite him, side by side, on the 
couch. The room was quiet. Out- 
side, the traffic on the various levels 
raised a din that tried valiantly to 
penetrate his muted office. 

I had never seen a corradonict 
smoke before. I wasn't even sure 
that Hayden was smoking. I don't 
think he even knew he had that 
cigar in his mouth. But great bil- 
lows of smoke rose from his mouth, 
puffed out over his head, smothered 
him and the chair and the script. 
He could have acted the part of a 
volcano in an adventure stereo with 
no extra effort. 

He turned a page, blew out an- 
other stream of smoke. The rustle 
of the paper made a loud, scratch- 
ing sound in the silence of the 
room. 

Hayden made a noise that sound- 
ed like a cross between a burp and 
a grunt. He turned another page. 

The electric clock on the wall 
hummed pleasantly, throwing 
seconds, minutes, hours into the 
room. The cloud of smoke thicken- 
ed, and Hayden kept turning pages, 
one after the other, grunting oc- 
casionally, burping frequently. 

He leaned back at last, closed the 
script. On the couch, I felt Bruce 
lean forward expectantly. 

"Well. . ." Hayden said. He 
studied the end of his cigar, then 
dropped it into the disposotray. 

Lois gripped my hand tightly, 
and I glanced down at it and then 
over to Hayden's face. 

He drew a heavy breath, and I 
felt Lois tense. 

"It's terrific," he said mildly. 
"We can start shooting at once." 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



35 



XI 

DINO BELAZI came to my 
office two days later. 

At first, I couldn't believe my 
cars. "Who?" I asked Lizbeth. 

"Dino Belazi, Van." 

"The Rcc? The critic? The. . . 
the Ree?" 

"The same." 

"Well. Well. Give me ten min- 
utes, then show him in." 

I cleared ofi" my desk, leaving the 
top as glistening as a mountain 
lake. Then I walked around the 
office and straightened the zines 
and the pabaeks. I closed the top 
of the bar, straightened a stereopic 
on the wall and tilted the blinds so 
that the sun backlighted me. I went 
to the closet, rubbed some alcojcl 
on, combed my hair, and scrutiniz- 
ed myself in the door mirror. I 
pulled my breeches higher, saw that 
my boots carried a high polish, 
sucked in my stomach, and then 
walked to my desk. I tilted my head 
so that the sunlight hit my profile. 
I waited for Dino Belazi. 

The door slid open, and I heard 
his heavy shoes on my rug. I 
glanced through the blinds for a 
few seconds, and then turned 
casually. 

Belazi had stopped in the center 
of the room. 

He was not at all what I had 
pictured. He was a small man with 
a carefully trimmed white beard. 
He wore a severely tailored black 
suit. His collar was tight, his tic 
thin. His shoes were black and 
highly polished. His straight nose 
sliced down the middle of his face 
like a cleaver. His lips were pursed 
beneath that nose, carefully con- 



cealing his teeth. His eyes could tell 
stories, but they were short of ma- 
terial at the moment. 

"Mr. Belazi," I said cordially. 
"I'm honored." 

Belazi took a quick step forward, 
then stopped with his heels togeth- 
er, his homburg clenched in both 
hands, his cane looped over his 
right arm. "I shall make my visit 
brief and to the point, Mr. Branos- 
ki," he said. His voice was deep, 
but his speech was clipped. 

"Mr. Brant," I corrected him. 

Belazi smiled mirthlessly. "If 
you prefer." 

"I prefer." 

"I have compiled a list of alleged 
literary agents who are today so- 
liciting the majority of smut on the 
market. You, unfortunately, are one 
of the chief purveyors. I have been 
systematically eliminating these 
men, starting at the top and work- 
ing my way to the bottom." 

"Eliminating?" 

"Through visits. I've come to 
ask something of you, Mr. Branos 
. . .Mr. Brant." 

"And what's that?" 

"May I sit down?" 

"Please do." 

"Thank you." Belazi moved to 
the chair oppoistc my desk. He sat 
down, carefully raising his trousers 
to protect their crease. He put his 
homburg on one arm of the chair, 
leaned forward and rested both 
hands on the head of his cane. 
"Now, then. I've come to ask that 
you discontinue the submission of 
manuscripts to: (a) the magazines, 
(b) the paperbacks, (c) the stereo- 
scopic, the three dimensional, and 
the sensory mediums." 

"You missed one," I said. 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



37 



"Did I indeed?" 

"Yes. We're still submitting ma- 
terial to the live shows." 

Belazi coughed politely. "We 
shall eliminate the legitimate thea- 
tre from our discussion. I rather 
imagine you arc not selling them a 
great deal of material." 

I smiled. *tln other words, you'd 
like me to go out of business;, is 
that it?" 

"I did not suggest that." 

"But your statement was heavily 
loaded with that implication, I 
would say. Wouldn't you?" 

"I would prefer not to comment 
on that. Do you agree to my pro- 
posal?" 

"Don't be popped, father." 

"Sir?" 

"Your proposal is absurd. You're 
asking me to slit my own throat." 

"Suicide is sometimes a more 
pleasant prospect than execution." 

"Don't tickle me, Belazi. The 
Vikes are firmly rooted, It'll take 
more than a threat from you to 
kick us out." 

"I know that. We possess the 
means to destroy you and your ilk, 
Mr. Brant. Believe me, we are 
fully prepared." 

"How? With bad reviews? Every 
time you razor something, we sell 
a million more copies or we get a 
million more viewers. Grow up, 
father. The people are wise." 

"Are they?" 

"They are. They are that. Fi- 
nally, after all these years, they're 
wise. Oh so wise, father. They 
know just what they want, and 
we're giving it to them." 

"But is it what they want?" 

"I've no time for philo, Bilazi. 
And I don't want to chop psych 



with you, either. You know what 
they want as well as I do." 

Belazi pursed his lips and said 
nothing. His hands were firm on 
the head of his cans. 



I TOOK his silence for assent. "It 
used to be the other way 
around, Belazi. The little man was 
the slob, wallowing in filth, breed- 
ing kids he didn't want, dreaming 
of adventures he never had and 
never would have. The paperbacks 
took hold then, and the little man 
began to wake up. He recognized 
convention for what it really was: 
a petty disguise of polite society, a 
subterfuge designed to keep the lit- 
tle man's feet firmly on the ground, 
to keep his head from out of the 
clouds." 

"I'm really not terribly interested 
in — " 

"And at the same time, the body 
magicians were at work. 'Wear a 
Juno bra and you won't be flat- 
chested* 'Use Vitagro on your hair, 
and you'll be dazzling.' 'Don't smell 
— use Sosoap.' While the paper- 
backs peddled vicarious adventure, 
the advertising industry emphasized 
clothes, cosmetics, luxuries the lit- 
tle man could never afford, trips to 
Bermuda, beauty aids, dreams. And 
sex reared its lovely breast. The 
paperbacks featured busty broads 
on their covers in full color, a vi- 
carious thrill for a quarter, the thin 
part of a dollar. Television joined 
the parade, for free this time, and 
if you couldn't see a chick's navel 
on Channel 30, you switched to 29. 
The movies clung to their stupid 
censorship rulings until they realiz- 
ed they were losing out in the big 



38 



EVAN HUNTER 



race. They relaxed then, and the 
results were amazing. Three-di- 
mensional processes took hold, giv- 
ing more reality to the vicarious 
pleasure. And the people liked it. 
The people loved it. The people — " 

"All of which — " 

"All of which illustrates a point. 
Joe Sucker began to understand an 
important truth. It had been there 
all along, starting maybe with the 
now-defunct comic books, working 
its way up through pulp magazines, 
through the now-extinct hard cov- 
er novels, into the pabacks, into 
television, the movies, the stereos, 
the senso's. Now he knew. The 
make-believe was better than the 
reality! The girl's behind wiggling 
on the motion picture screen was a 
hundred times better and a thou- 
sand times more effective than his 
own wife's fat pratt in the shabby, 
dubious comfort of his own home. 
The colorful characters of the 
dream world, the people with 
names like Drew and Allison and 
Mark and Cynthia, were having a 
hell of a lot more fun than the 
Ijjile man was. In real life, the pure 
maiden was the acme of perfection. 
In the dream world, if a chick did- 
n't hop into bed after five minutes 
of casual conversation she was a 
Mongolit. 'Hey!' Joe Sucker yelled, 
'where have I been all my life?' He 
woke up, and the waking was a 
tremendously powerful thing." 

"The awakening was the doom 
of society." 

"No, Mr. Belazi. It put the little 
man right where he'd always want- 
ed to be. He changed his name 
from Joe Sucker to Joel Standish. 
He forgot about the disappointing 
realities all arotind him and con- 



centrated on the purely vicarious as- 
pect of living. He began to enjoy 
himself for the first time because 
now his entire world was a make- 
believe one. He conveniently dis- 
posed of the reality, which no long- 
er served any concrete purpose in 
his life. He was a sucker reborn, 
and he clasped hands with millions 
of other suckers, and began having 
a hell of a good time. Drugs, which 
had already taken a strong illegal 
foothold, became as common as 
cigarettes. Eventually, as you know, 
they became legal, which was a 
damned smart move. Marriage 
was abandoned as the shoddy thing 
it was, the invention of some fools 
who wanted to indulge but conceal 
what is basically a disgusting ani- 
mal impulse. Archaicism was re- 
placed by new thoughts, new lan- 
guage, new dreams. Society was re- 
vitalized. It still is revitalized. It 
still is — " 

"Decadent! It is decadent!" 
Belazi shouted. 

"Only for a Realist. For the 
Vike, there is pure escape. It does 
things better for him, with no strain 
and no pain. Three cheers for it, 
I say." 

Belazi's face seemed ready to 
erupt. It turned a deep red, and 
then modulated the chromatic scale 
until it reached its normal shade 
again. "I take it you will continue 
with your submissions." 

"I will." 

Belazi rose stiffly. "Thank you 
for the history lesson, Mr. Branos- 
ki. I appreciated it." 

He turned brusquely and started 
for the door, stopping halfway 
across the carpet. *'You will re- 
member that you were warned." 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



39 



"Sure, I'll remember." 

"We will do everything in our 
power to crush you, Mr. Branoski. 
You and the others. The Vicarious 
Movement is finished, believe me." 

I didn't answer. I simply 
grinned. 

Belazi turned on his heel and 
walked out. 

xn 

I UNDERSTAND cancer is that 
way. 

You can have all the signs, you 
can see them every day, but you 
won't realize what they mean until 
someone tells you you've got six 
months to live. 

I was up to my ears in production 
details. The senso was going to 
cost a lot more than we'd figured, 
even cutting it to the bone. Hayden 
insisted on complete secrecy, which 
meant no outdoor shooting, no 
borrowing of sets, no established 
players who would spread the word 
around. It meant that we had to 
hire a studio large enough to hold 
all the sets we needed for the show. 
We had to get additional equip- 
ment, and we had to get it the hard 
way, laying out cold cash for pur- 
chased items rather than renting 
the stuff. And we had to search 
for actors and actresses without ad- 
vertising, without stirring up any 
outside interest. We had to get 
cameramen, musicians, audio and 
olefactory technicians, a guy to 
write the score and another to di- 
rect it. And most expensive were 
the men Hayden had trained in the 
new individual sensory techniques. 
It was a headache, but its possi- 
bilities looked even bigger to me 



once I got wrapped up in it 

And at the same time, I tried to 
run the agency, taking harassed 
calls from scribes and eds, reading 
tons of manuscripts, haggling over 
prices, marketing the material we 
had on hand. I hired two new 
eds, adding an extra strain to my 
budget. I began to lean on Liz 
more and more heavily, delegating 
much of the marketing to her. My 
mind was almost always occupied 
with thoughts of the show, with 
problems that had come up, but I 
kept a small corner of my thinking 
capacity open and reserved for the 
agency, and I used that when Liz 
gave me daily reports. 

"Three scripts back from Preen 
Publishers," she said. 

"What's wrong?" 

"Nothing. They said they weren't 
right." 

"That's funny. Who were the 
scribes?" 

"Mercer, Peer, Fitch." 

"They've sold to Preen." 

"I know." 

"Mm. What else?" 

"A notice from Agon Senso. New 
ownership." 

"What else?" 

"Pile of stuff back from Stereo 
One. Not their type, they said." 

"Not their type? It's the same 
stuff we've been sending them all 
along," I complained. 

Liz shrugged. "You want me to 
remarket this stuff?" 

"Yes. But first call Andrews at 
Stereo One. Ask him what the hell 
he means by not their type. Tell 
him — " 

"He's not there any more, Van." 

"Since when?" 

"Yesterday. A new fellow's taken 



40 



EVAN HUNTER 



over. I forget his name." 

I nodded disgustedly. "That ex- 
plains it. A new cd, a new batch of 
pet agents and scribes. Well, 
scroom. There* are lots of other 
markets." 

"Hundreds," Liz agreed. "What 
brews tonight, Van?" 

"Why?" 

"Got a party, thought you might 
like to take my arm." 

"Not tonight, hon." 

"Business?" 

"Business," I said 

Liz shrugged. "It'll probably be 
a dull glom anyway." 



H 



XIII 

AYDEN SHOWED ME a 

portion of the shooting script. 



Camera 1-2 
Close up 
Betty Face 

Camera 5-6 
Filter-shot 
Carl arms 



Camera 3-4 
Stero 
Betty brsts 

Camera 7-8 

CU 

Carl nose 



Olcfact Special 

Perfume 312a Wind 

Tobacco 42 Faint rain 
Roses 

Betty: Don't! Carl, please, please. 
You're hurting rac! 



Camera 1-2 

CU 

Carl fingers 



Camera 5-6 
Superimp 
Rose bush 



Camera 3-4 
Grid shot 
Betty flesh 
Arm 

Camera 7-8 
Ovhd dolly 
Carl fingers 



Olejact 


Special 


Same, add: 


Tweed 


Musk woman 


scratch 


Lt perspir 


Sticky 


Cloth 


blood 



Carl: I know! I want to hurt 
you. I want to keep hurting you 
until — 



Camera 1-2 
Snap cu 
Betty mouth 

Camera 5-6 
Over 

Same 

Olejact 
Cut all but 
Roses, add 

Fnt tooth 
pst 580-5 



Betty: No! Carl! Carl! 



Camera 3-4 

Under 
Same 

Camera 7-8 
Same as 
Camera 1-2 

Special 
None 



I looked at it and scratched my 
head. It had certainly changed 
from the simple arrangement of di- 
alogue Bruce and Lois had written. 

"Do you see now why it's going 
to cost us so much?" he asked. 

I nodded dumbly. "I see." 

XIV 

•"E SWUNG into production, 
and I was pulled away from 
the office even more than usual. It 
was a tough grind for me, but 
Haydcn stayed with us all every 
inch of the way. There were a 
million things to be done at the 
studio, and our limited budget 
meant that everyone had to pitch 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



41 



And that meant that when I got 
home each night, I was ready to 
sleep through the next week. In- 
stead, I got up each morning at six, 
rushed to the office to open the mail 
and sort it, and then waited for Liz 
to come in with a rundown of the 
previous activities. It was on one 
of these mornings, while waiting for 
Liz, that I happened to check the 
stock room. What I found sur- 
prised me. 

Lizbeth pranced in at nine, her 
breasts sparkling with an iridescent 
glow. Her skirt was the most dar- 
ing thing I'd ever seen in an office, 
consisting of a single thin strip that « 
hung over her buttocks. Her under- 
wear was transparent, and fully 
exposed. 

"That's going a little far, isn't 
it?" I asked. 

She glanced at her near-nudity, 
lifted her eyes. She shrugged. 
"Kicks, father." 

"Kicks? What the hell ..." 

"Look, Van," she snapped. 
"Don't tell me how to dress." 

"I don't give a damn what you 
wear on your own time. In this 
office, though, don't look as if you're 
ready to crawl into some god- 
damn Ree's nest." 

"You're insulting!" 

"And so's that skirt!" 

"All right!" she shouted. "Would 
you like me to go home and change 
it?" 

"No. But there are a few things 
I'd like to know." 

"Like what?" 

"Like where our supply of drugs 
went to? Did you forget to re- 
order, or has someone been using it 
for private parties?" 

"Neither. Swift's is out." 



"Out of drugs? Are you — " 

"Out of drugs, yes." 

"Then why didn't you get it else- 
where?" 

"I tried. There seems to be a 
scarcity of the stuff." 

"Of drugs?" I asked incredul- 
ously. 

"Yes, yes, of drugs. Don't you 
understand when I — " 

"What the hell's wrong with you, 
Liz?" 

"Nothing. I haven't had a fix 
yet, that's all." 

"Well, go take one then, and we'll 
talk business when you've popped." 

"There's none in the office. You 
saw that yourself." 

I was beginning to get a little 
exasperated. "Then why didn't you 
pop before you left your house?" 

"Because I'm all out, too, and I 
couldn't get any." 

"I've got plenty at my place," I 
said. "Send one of the kids when 
they come in." 

"Opaine?" she asked, an eager 
light in her eyes. 

"Morph, mostly. A guest supply 
of a few others. Have you tried all 
the drug outfits?" 

"Yes, all of them." 

"The private sellers?" 

"All of them." 

"Probably a small shortage. May- 
be a shipment got fouled, Any- 
way, I want to ask you about the 
marketing setup. We usually get 
checks from Vizco and Young & 
Co. on Thursdays. There were 
none in this morning's mail. Any 
idea what's wrong?" 

"Yes. They've both been taken 
over by a new outfit." 

"Oh. What's the name of the 



new owner; 



42 



EVAN HUNTER 



Lizbeth sucked in her breath. 
"Ball Associates," she said. 

XV 

IRAN INTO Deborah Dean that 
week. She was hurrying to 
catch a pncumotube, and she al- 
most knocked me over. 

'Hey!" I said, "what's the rush?" 

She looked up at me for a mo- 
ment, and then said, "Van! How 
good." She grasped my hand firm- 
ly, squeezed it hard. "It's awfully 
nice to see you. What are you do- 
ing? Where have you been keep- 
ing yourself?" 

"Well, I've been pretty busy," I 
said. 

She'd changed a great deal. She 
wore her hair long, curling about 
her neck. There were no contacts 
on her eyes, and I noticed for the 
first time that their original color 
was a somewhat muddy brown. 
She'd put on weight, of course, so I 
assumed her trips to the Inseminary 
had 1Tccn successful. She wore a 
breast sheath that fully covered her 
bosom, and her skirt ended just 
above the knees, much longer than 
anything I'd ever seen on her. She 
wore flats, but I attributed that to 
her condition. 

"I have, too," she said. Her eyes 
seemed to sparkle, making me for- 
get the drabness of their color for a 
moment. This hardly seemed like 
the same exciting, vivacious De- 
borah I'd known. And yet, there 
was something new about her that 
hadn't been there before, either. A 
glow, almost. She glanced at her 
wrist chron and said, "I must run, 
Van. Are you going uptown?" 

"Yes, I am." 



"Good. Gome along." 

We caught a dual car, sitting side 
by side as the buildings sped by in 
a blur outside. We talked of little 
things, neither of us mentioning the 
change in her. 

Finally, I asked, "Have you been 
having trouble getting fixed, Deb?" 

She smiled tolerantly. "I'm off 
it, Van. I'm having a baby, you 
know. They don't mix well." 

"Oh. Yes, of course. The In- 
scminar was a success, then?" 

She hesitated a moment before 
answering. 

"Well ... not exactly." 
k I didn't get her meaning at first. 
When it hit me, I stared at her in 
surprise. A feeling of revulsion 
gripped me, and I almost wanted to 
leap out of the car. 

"I thought you knew," Deborah 
said softly. "Rog Brooks and I 
were married four months ago." 

"Married!" 

Deborah turned away from me 
and gazed steadily through the win- 
dow of the car. 

"A person gets tired of parties," 
she said after a while. 

I didn't answer her. 

XVI 

THE REPORT came through on 
all corns, pri and pub. It came 
after a week in which drugs had 
dwindled down to a mere trickle. 
I was at home, getting ready for 
bed. I snapped on the com, scan- 
ning the messages as they taped out 
of the machine. The report said: 
COM PRI-PUB DISPATCH 
38C 42 13 X WASHINGTON, 
D.C. AUGUST 12, 2174 X EF- 
FECTIVE 0001 AUGUST 15, 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



43 



2174, ALL DRUGS, NARCO- 
TICS, STIMULANTS, DE- 
PRESSIVES ILLEGAL EX- 
CEPT MEDICINALLY AD- 
MINISTERED BY LICENSED 
PHYSICIANS X JOINT SES- 
SION CONGRESS TODAY 
VOTED UNANIMOUSLY IN 
FAVOR BILL PROHIBITING 
SALE OR CONSUMPTION 
OF NARCOTICS TO PRI- 
VATE CITIZENS X EX- 
TREME SERIOUSNESS OF 
SITUATION WAIVED DE- 
LAY IN FAVOR OF IMME- 
DIATE RESUMPTION OF 
RESTRICTIONS X THREE- 
DAY GRACE PERIOD 
GRANTED AFTER STRONG 
VI KE PROTESTS BUT LAW 
EFFECTIVE AUGUST 15 X 
OFFENDERS LIABLE TO AR- 
REST AND PROSECUTION X 

I tore the tape off and held it in 
trembling hands. This was impos- 
sible. This was utterly fantastic. 
I rushed over to the phone, dialed 
Hayden Thorpe's number, let it 
ring six times before I gave up. I 
tried Bruce next, and when I got 
no answer there, I called Clark 
Talbot in desperation. 

He didn't look good. He didn't 
look good at all. He blinked his 
eyes at the screen, wet his lips with 
his tongue. 

"That you, Van?" he asked. 

"Yes, Clark. Did you see the 
latest on the com?" 

"About the narcotics?" 

"Yes." 

"They've been running that every 
ten minutes. Where you been foof- 
ing, father?" 

"Is it straight goods?" 



"Sure, it must be. It's on the 
public communicators, too. You 
can't get any bum dope on those." 

"Well, Jesus, what the hell arc 
we going to do? What docs it all 
mean? I thought we had a Vike 
majority in Congress." 

"Majorities don't mean beans, 
Van. You spread a little moo 
around in the right places, and ma- 
jorities become minorities over- 
night. Don't you know politics?" 

"But ... I mean . . . well, where 
are we going to get our stuff?" 

Clark gave a short, dry laugh that 
sounded more like a cackle. "Jest 
me not, father," he said. "I've 
been cool for the past nine days. I 
couldn't raise a drop of herrocoke 
no matter how hard I tried. So 
this makes it illegal, so what? If 
you can't get it, what difference 
does it make if somebody says you're 
not allowed to get it? Father, I've 
been down, really." 

"Nine days!" I said, incredulity 
in my voice. 

"Cooler and cooler, and now I'm 
almost cold. It was rough tough 
stuff, Van. I thought I was done 
a few days ago. I was ready to 
make out a will." 

"What about now? I mean ..." 

"Now?" Clark asked. "Now?" 
I looked into his eyes. They were 
vacuous and lonely. Something of 
a smile played on his lips and then 
died there. "No mo, Van. Gone. 
From my body, anyway. In my 
mind ... in my mind ..." He 
sighed deeply, then changed the 
subject abruptly. "Who's Ball 
Associates?" 

"What?" I asked, still a little 
dazed. 

"Ball Associates. I understand 



44 



EVAN HUNTER 



they've cornered half the god-damn 
publishing field. Have you sold 
anything of mine lately?" 

"Well, Clark, Triple Press is now 
owned by — " 

"I know. Ball. What about it?'* 

"Change of policy. You know 
how these things work. New owner, 
new — " 

"Yeah," Clark said drily. "Well, 
without a habit, all I have to worry 
about is food. Think you can scrape 
enough for that?'* 

I managed to laugh weakly. 
"Hell, Clark, stop talking like a — '* 

"Ree?" he asked. He began 
laughing then, continued laughing 
until I snapped off. 

I walked to my home bar, 
checked the vials there. I still had 
a fair supply even though this past 
week had dented it badly, My 
hands were trembling as I pulled 
the lid shut. I felt like talking to 
someone, anyone. I thought of 
Hayden, realized he was out. The 
same applied to Bruce. I picked 
up the com report and looked at it 
again, and then I dressed slowly 
and left the apartment. 



ALL TRAFFIC had been 
stopped on the street levels. 
The robot policemen had their 
hands full as small jet cars piled up 
one behind the other, their horns 
blaring shrilly. Everyone seemed 
to be in the streets. There was 
swearing and shouting and cursing 
and singing and drunken revelry. 
The Ree's commanded the night, 
and they reeled about everywhere, 
proclaiming their major victory to 
the neon skies. Every Vike I passed 
stared at me dejectedly, sharing 



silently the blow of our defeat. 

There was the solemn air of a 
funeral procession mixed with the 
blatant enthusiasm of a wedding 
feast. The streets were a com- 
plexity of contrasts, but the cele- 
brants seemed to outweigh the 
mourners — if by lung power alone. 

I lurched along the walk, shoul- 
dering Ree's aside, biting my lip, 
wondering how this had happened, 
wondering how it had all come 
about. I kept walking, unseeing 
almost, and I found myself at my 
office. I took the lift up, pressed 
my key into the lock, and entered. 

A light was burning, and I cursed 
Liz* inefficiency until I opened the 
door to my private office and found 
her sitting at the desk. 

Her face was drawn in the light 
of the overhead lamp, her features 
haggard. 

"It's all over," she said. 

"Don't be silly. Just because — " 

"Not only the drugs," she pro- 
tested. "Everything ! Look at 
this." She held out a white sheet 
of paper, and I looked at it in- 
credulously. It told me that Ball 
Associates now owned a majority 
of the stock throughout the publish- 
ing and entertainment fields, and 
that editorial requirements would 
be changed abruptly in the near 
future. 

I nodded my head vaguely. "We 
should have seen this coming, Liz. 
We should have — " 

"We didn't," she said blankly. 

"It still doesn't mean the end. 
We can still submit material. We 
can — " 

"Look at the signature," she said 
dully. "At the bottom of the page." 

I looked. 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



45 



It was signed : Dino Belazi, 
President. 

"No!" I shouted involuntarily. 
"This can't — " 

I stopped myself. It could, and 
it had. I knew then what Belazi's 
weapon had been. Money. Money 
to buy out the industry, and money 
to pay off the lobbies. Money, the 
Vikes' own weapon, and in the 
hands of the Ree's. How many 
stupid Ree's had contributed to Be- 
lazi's death fund ? How many 
grubby peasants had scraped up 
their last dollar for the cause of 
destroying the Vike Movement? 

It made me a little ill. I crumpled 
the paper into a ball and dropped 
it on the floor. I wheeled then and 
ran from the room, leaving Liz at 
the desk. I ran into the streets, into 
the mayhem again, shoving, push- 
ing, fighting my way uptown, fight- 
ing the blares of the horns, the 
sharp laughter, the voices high in 
song, the giggling, the roaring, the 
endless procession of jubilant Ree's 
and despondent Vikes, the clatter 
and the clash, the clamor and the 
incessant din — fighting all the way. 

And then I got where I was go- 
ing, and I closed the door behind 
me, cutting myself ofT from the 
noise outside. I took the lift up, 
walked briskly down the hall and 
pressed the buzzer. 

A series of chimes rang within 
the apartment, and then the door 
panel slid open and I showed my 
face to the mirrored side of the 
seethru. The door slid back, and 
Lois stood there, ready for bed, her 
red hair fluffed behind her, her 
body sheathed in thin pajamas. 

"Van," she said. There was 
something of desperation in her 



voice, and something of expec- 
tancy — as if she thought I'd have 
the solution to the entire problem. 

I went inside and walked quickly 
to the window, looking down at the 
milling crowds. She came and 
stood beside mc, and I felt the 
warmth of her body, smelled the 
faint aroma of her perfume, 

"It's bad," I said. "This new law 
. . , and they've got control of the 
field. Ball Associates — Dino Be- 
lazi. We'll never sell them another 
Vike script as long as — " 

"And the show?" Lois cut in. 
"After all this work, all the money 
put into it? Will that . . . die, 
too?" 

I thought of the show. 

Individual Sensory Productions. 

Something new, something spec- 
tacular. 

Something as potent as a shot 
of morph. Maybe . . . maybe . . . 

My mouth was grim when I 
answered. "No, Lois, the show 
won't die. We're not licked yet." 

She moved closer to me, and wc 
kept watching the frantic crowd in 
the street until the pale beginnings 
of dawn chased the revelers to their 
homes and their beds. 

XVII 

I WENT TO SEE Dino Belazi 
the next day. 

I didn't go there to beg or plead. 
I went there to tell him what I was 
going to do. I went there to spit 
in his gloating face. 

He wasn't gloating, though. He 
was sitting seriously behind his se- 
vere desk. His hair was slightly 
disarrayed, and he stroked his 
beard with forced concentration. 



46 



EVAN HUNTER 



"All right," I said, "you've got 
it all now. Right in the palm of 
your fat Realist fist. But we're not 
through, Bclazi. I came to tell 
you that you'd better enjoy your- 
self while you can." 

"Your attitude, Mr. Branoski 

"Mr. Brant, goddamnit! And 
don't forget it!" 

"Your attitude, Mr. Brant is not 
a sound one. It is, rather — " 

"Just listen to this, Bclazi. I've 
got something that's bigger than 
anything that's ever come along. 
I'm producing it myself, so I don't 
need any big company to bother 
with. In other words, I don't need 
Ball Associates. I'm producing my- 
self, with my own money, and I'll 
distribute myself — and when this 
hits the market, you can take your 
rejuvenated Ree society and stick it 
right up your nose. Just remember 
that, Bclazi. Remember it, and en- 
joy yourself because you've got one 
foot in the grave and the other on 
a grapeskin." 

Belazi's face became a little sad. 
"I had hoped we could get together. 
I had hoped ..." He shrugged. 

"Together? Ree's and Vikes? 
Hah!" I looked at him contemptu- 
ously. "You mean you'd hoped my 
writers would turn out the Rce fecse 
you're dying to put on the market 
again. Well they won't, Belazi. 
They won't because what I've got 
is going to take all the starch out 
of your little coup. You're going 
to be right back where you started. 
Only this time, we're going to be 
more careful. We're going to watch 
you this time, Bclazi, and there'll 
be no mistakes." 

"Do what you must do," he said 



softly. 

"I'll do it, all right. I just wanted 
you to know. So that you won't 
sit up here and gloat all day. I 
wanted you to worry a little, Belazi. 
I wanted you to know that your 
happiness is short-lived. I'll leave 
now. but you'll be hearing from 
me." 

I turned and headed for the door. 

Behind me, Belazi said, "Good 
luck, Branoski." 

XVIII 

I COULDN'T contact Deborah. 
She was nowhere to be found. 
I got Haydcn and Bruce, and to- 
gether we began scouring the city, 
anxious to find her because the 
stone she'd promised us would be 
enough to put the show over and 
smash the new Rce uprising. I 
still had some drugs left, and so I 
didn't feel the new law as much as 
Clark apparently had. But they 
wouldn't last forever, and we had 
to work fast. We had to start a 
bally that would generate enough 
Vike interest to start a counter- 
movement. We had to do some- 
thing to blast through the miasma 
of defeat that had settled over the 
city like a plague of locusts. We 
had to announce the new senso fast. 
It took me five days to find her, 
and when I did, she was working 
hard, her hair trailing over one 
eye, her face sweated. She was 
very tired, and her pregnancy 
seemed to show more now than it 
had the last time I'd seen her. She 
was wearing a nurse's frock, which 
was in perfect keeping with her 
surroundings because she was in a 
clinic. 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



47 



"Deborah," I said, "I've come 
for the money." 

She didn't stop working. She 
was banking plasma row on row, 
turning to pick up the jars, then 
stacking them neatly on the shelf. 

"The what, Van?" 

"The money. The stone you 
promised me. Remember? That 
night at your party? When you 
told me — " 

"Oh. Yes. Yes, I remember 
now." 

There was an uncomfortable si- 
lence. She put another jar on the 
shelf and it clinked solidly against 
the one beneath it. 

"Well? Can I have it?" 

Deborah didn't answer. 

"I said — " 

"I heard you, Van." 

"Well?" 

"No." 

"No? What do you mean, no? 
You promised me, Deb. I went 
ahead with plans because I was 
counting on that moo. Honey, if 
ever you wanted to help someone, 
this is — " 

"It's not a question of wanting 
to, Van. Believe me, I do want to. 
I simply haven't got that much 
money." 

"How much do you have?" 

"Two thousand at the most. And 
. . . and we'll need that, too " 

"But for Christ's sake," I said, al- 
most wanting to weep, "what did 
you do with all your money ? 
Where — " 

"The clinic," she said. "It*s 
Rog's, you know. We . . . we*re 
going to be needed. Van." 

"Deb," I said. "Deb, Deb." 

"I would help you if I could, be- 
lieve me. But you can't imagine 



what this abrupt change is doing to 
people. Rog has his hands full al- 
ready, and there'll be more. It's 
going to take work, Van, hard work. 
Rehabilitating the addicts, and then 
rehabilitating the sick minds." 

"What? I'm sorry, Deb. What 
did you say?" 

"We've got to find a meeting 
ground, don't you see, Van? That's 
the hardest job ahead, and that's 
where every psych is going to be 
valuable. A meeting ground, some- 
where in the middle." 

"What do you mean? Some- 
where in tlie middle of what?" 

'The middle of Vike and Ree. 
Neither is healthy, Van — and I 
think both factions realize it." 

"Realize it ?" I was suddenly 
angry. "Sure," I said, "start talk- 
ing like a goddamn smug Ree 
tramp. Build a cozy clinic for your 
shackmate and then start spouting 
pretty phrases. Well, you don't 
know what the hell you're talking 
about. You think this Ree business 
is going to last? You think the 
people are going to turn back to all 
that fecsc? We've been Vike for 
more than ten years now. We'll 
never go back to Ree." 

"You're right," Deborah said, 
"but only because the Ree attitude 
is a sick one, too. As sick as the 
Vike. And Ball Associates — which 
was the Ree's weapon — is a virtual 
monopoly, and any such monopoly 
of art and entertainment is bad, 
Van. Van, we've got to wed the 
two." Her eyes burned with a 
fierce intensity, and she put her 
hand on my arm. "We've got to 
bring them together. We've got to 
make a happy whole out of two 
diseased parts." 



48 



EVAN HUNTER 



She paused and turned her head 
away. "It's going to get worse. 
Van. Much worse. This is only 
the beginning. And then someone 
will have to pick up the pieces. Rog 
is helping, and so am I. But we've 
all got to." She paused again. 
"Yon see, we have no choice. It's 
either that ... or the end of every- 
thing we know." 

Her voice had got very low. She 
looked op at me, and her fingers 
tightened on my arm. "Do you 
understand, Van?" 

I stared at her for a few mo- 
ments, and then I gently took her 
hand from my arm. 

"Goodbye, Deborah," I said. 

And then I left her. 

XIX 

r' GOT WORSE. 
The drug ruling was strictly en- 
forced, and it was impossible to get 
as much as a stick of benzejuana 
anywhere. I was sick. I was sicker 
than I'd ever been in my life. For 
the next month, I stayed locked in 
my room, my body the only thing 
that concerned me. The corns re- 
ported new suicides daily, new men- 
tal crackdowns. And everywhere 
around me, the picture was chang- 
ing. Vike entertainment was slowly 
and deliberately being suffocated. 
The Ree*i were having a field day, 
and Dino Belazi must have been 
riding on a big cloud. 

Lois called often. Her habit had 
been a short one, and an easy one 
to shuck. My habit had come from 
years of use, and it left my body 
reluctantly, fighting for every inch 
of control it lost. I'd click on when- 
ever she called, and then lay back 



while she spoke. I very rarely 
answered her. I just listened, nod- 
ding now and then, thinking of my 
own private hell and envying the 
easy battle she had won. 

Arid then it was all over. I could 
eat in the morning without spitting 
it up again before noon. My appe- 
tite began to return and I started 
to think of other things besides the 
constant physical turmoil that had 
held me for so many weeks. 

I did a lot of thinking. Some of 
it surprised me. But chiefly, I 
thought of the new senso — and of 
the money we needed. 

I tried to sell the agency. It 
was all I had left, and I figured 
we could still save the show, still 
Stage some tiling big enough to 
knock the Ree's on their arses. But 
people know when you're pedding a 
corpse. My stable consisted of Vike 
scribes. There was no market for 
Vike stuff now. I got laughed at 
in a good many places, and actually 
tossed out of one place. In the 
end, I was forced to close the office 
and cut the scribes loose. 

I moved to a cheaper apartment, 
and I tried to sell the furnishings. 
But the furnishings were of Vike 
design, and Vike had become syno- 
nymous with bubonic plague. 

I started to look around me then. 
I still had some money, and it 
wasn't necessary for me to hunt 
work immediately. I took long 
walks, and I watched the results 
of the new scheme of things. 

Summer was giving way to au- 
tumn, and brisk winds moved in as 
quickly as the Ree upsurgence had. 
I walked the streets, and I watched 
the people, Ree and Vike, and I 
thought. There was the smell of 



MALICE IN WONDERLAND 



49 



winter in the air. The sky had 
turned cast iron, and dying leaves 
ruped along the street levels, 
crushed beneath the hurrying boots 
of passcrsby. The air was crisp, 
with the tang of a ripe apple. It 
caressed the flesh with tingling fing- 
ers, left my face raw and my body 
Invigorated. I walked and I 
watched and I listened. And I saw 
the broken pieces Deborah had 
mentioned, and I saw the people 
who were painstakingly picking up 
those pieces, trying to fit them to- 
gether into a new pattern. 

I thought often of the new senso 
and Ball Associates and Dino Belazi. 



I WENT TO Lois' place after a 
while. I hadn't seen her or 
talked to her for some time now, 
but I wasn't surprised to sec her 
looking the way she'd looked that 
first day in my office, long long ago, 
when her name had been Lydia 
Silversicin and her habits had been 
somewhere between Rcc and Vike. 
It was good to sec her like that. She 
was fully clothed, and somehow 
that made her more attractive. 

She was happy to see me. She 
took me into her living room, and 
wc sat before a blazing fire in the 
hearth, mocking the cold air out- 
side the plexoid windows. 

Neither of us said anything for a 
long while. And then, finally, with 
my eyes on the crackling flames 
and my hand clenched in front of 
me, I said, "It's all over, Lois. AH 
of it." 

She didn't answer. 

"The Vikes are dead," I went on. 
"There's nothing remaining of 
them, Lois." 



"Maybe . . . maybe it's for the 
best." she said. "Maybe . . . maybe 
this should have happened a long 
time ago." 

I nodded abruptly. "Pve . . . I've 
been thinking. A lot. I've been 
looking around me and seeing kids 
holding hands again and being 
human again. I've seen people 
laughing at ... at humor that 
wasn't manufactured for them. I've 
seen tears that were personal and 
not generated. I ... I think this 
is the first time I've really looked 
around me since as long as I can 
remember." 

"Yes, Van," Lois said softly. 

"I was wondering ... if ... if 
we couldn't take the senso to Belazi. 
Show him what we've got so far. 
Ask him for . . . for help in com- 
pleting it." I turned my head back 
to the flames. It wasn't easy to say 
what I was saying. It wasn't easy at 
all. It was like cutting off the arm 
you've had attached to your shoul- 
der all your life. "You see, Lois, 
the senso can be changed. I mean, 
it doesn't have to be . . . the . , . the 
way we have it. We could . . . get 
together. It's still a terrific thing, 
and it can be used for real enter- 
tainment. If ... if we can find a 
middle ground ... a compromise." 

Lois stared at me curiously. 

"I think we can," she said at last. 

"Maybe," I said, "maybe". 

She covered my hand with hers, 
and her flesh was warm and not at 
all repulsive. "It's not the end after 
all. is it. Van " 

I turned to face her, and her eyes 
were warm, her lips parted 
expectantly. 

"No," I said. "It may be just the 
beginning." ... THE END 




aO» 



Survival of the fittest, on the frontier planet of Altair, 
was a matter of who could tell the biggest whopper. 
Con-man Harry £eckler considered himself a real 
master of the art — but he didn't know the Altuirians! 



Letter of the 
LAW 

By Alan E. Nourse 

Illustrated by Rudolph Palais 



THE PLAGE was dark and 
damp, and smelled like moldy 
leaves, ' Mcyerhoff followed the 
huge, bearlikc Altairian guard 
down the slippery flagstones of the 
corridor, sniffing the dead, musty 
air with distaste. He drew his 
carefully - tailored, Terran - styled 
jacket closer about his shoulders, 
shivering as his eyes avoided the 
black, yawning cell-holes they were 
passing. His foot had slipped on the 
slimey flags from time to time, and 
finally he paused to wipe the caked 
mud from his trouser leg. "How 
much farther is it?" he shouted 
Angrily, 

The guard waved a heavy paw 
vaguely into the blackness ahead. 
Quite sudenly the corridor took a 
sharp bend, and the Altairian 



51 



stopped, producing a huge key 
ring from some obscure fold of his 
hairy hide. "I still don't see any 
reason for all the fuss," he grumbl- 
ed in a wounded tone. "We've 
treated him like a brother — " 

One of the huge steel doors 
clicked open. Meycrhofi* peered in- 
to the blackness, catching a vague- 
ly human outline against the back 
wall. "Harry?" he called sharply. 

There was a startled gasp from 
within, and a skinny, gnarled little 
man suddenly appeared in the 
guard's light, like a grotesque, 
twisted ghost out of the blackness. 
Wide blue eyes regarded MeycrhofT 
from beneath uneven black eye- 
brows, and then the little man's 
face broke into a crafty grin. "Paul! 
So they sent you! I knew I could 



52 



ALAN E. NOURSE 



count on it!" He executed a deep, 
awkward bow, motioning Meyer- 
hoff into the dark cubicle. "Not 
much to offer you," he said slyly, 
"but it's the best! can do under the 
circumstances. . ." 

Meycrhoff scowled, and turned 
abruptly to the guard. "We'll have 
some privacy now, if you please. 
Interplanetary ruling. And leave 
us the light." 

The guard grumbled, and start- 
ed for the door. "It's about time 
you showed up!" cried the little 
man in the cell. "Great day! Lucky 
they sent you, pal. Why, I've been 
in here for years — " 

"Look, Zeckler — the name is 
Meyerhoff, and I'm not your pal," 
Meycrhoff snapped. "And you've 
been here for two weeks, three days, 
and approximately four hours. 
You're getting as bad as your gen- 
tle guards when it comes to bandy- 
ing the truth around!" He peered 
through the dim light at the gaunt 
face of the prisoner. Zeckler's face 
was dark with a week's beard, and 
his bloodshot eyes belied the cocky 
grin on his lips. His clothes were 
smeared and sodden, streaked with 
great splotches of mud and moss. 
MeyerhofTs face softened a little. 
"So Harry Zeckler's in a jam 
again," he said. "You look as if 
they'd treated you like a brother." 

The little man snorted. "These 
overgrown teddy-bears don't know 
what brotherhood means, nor hu- 
manity, either. Bread and water 
I've been getting, nothing more, 
and then only if they feel like bring- 
ing it down." He sank wearily down 
on the rock bench along the wall. 
"I thought you'd never get here! I 
sent an appeal to the Terran Con- 



sulate the first day I was arrested. 
What happened? I mean, all they 
had to do was get a man over here, 
get the extradition papers signed, 
and provide transportation off the 
planet for me. Why so much time? 
I've been sitting here rotting — " He 
broke off in mid-sentence and star- 
ed at Meyerhoff. You brought the 
papers, didn't you? I mean, we can 
leave now?" 

Meyerhoff stared at the little man 
with a mixture of pity and disgust. 
"You are a prize fool," he said fi- 
nally. "Did you know that?" 

Zeckler's eyes widened. "What 
do you mean, fool? So I spend a 
couple of weeks in this pneumonia- 
trap! The deal was worth it! I've 
got three million credits sitting in 
the Terran Consulate on Altair IV, 
just waiting for me to walk in and 
pick it up. Three million credits — 
do you hear? That's enough to set 
me up for life!" 

Meyerhoff nodded grimly. "// 
you live long enough to walk in 
and pick it up, that is." 

"What do you mean, if?" 



MEYERHOFF sank down be- 
side the man, his voice a tense 
whisper in the musty cell. "I mean 
that right now you are practically 
dead. You may not know it, but 
you are. You walk into a newly- 
opened planet with your smart lit- 
tle bag of tricks, with a shaky pass- 
port and no permit, with no knowl- 
edge of the natives outside of two 
paragraphs of inaccuracies in the 
Explorer's Guides — and then you're 
not content to come in here and 
sell something legitimate, some- 
thing the natives might conceivably 



LETTER OF THE LAW 



53 



be able to use. No, nothing so sim- 
ple for you. You have to pull your 
usual high-pressure stuff. And this 
time, buddy, you're paying the 
piper." 

"You mean I'm not being ex- 
tradited?" 

Meyerhoff grinned unpleasantly. 
"I mean precisely that. You've 
committed a crime here — a major 
crime. The Altairians are sore 
about it. And the Terran Con- 
sulate isn't willing to sell all the 
trading possibilities here down the 
river just to get you out of a mess. 
You're going to stand trial — and 
these natives are out to get you. 
Personally, I think they're going 
to get you." 

Zeckler stood up shakily. "You 
can't believe anything the natives 
say," he said uneasily. "They're pa- 
thological liars. Why, you should 
see what they tried to sell me! 
You've never seen such a pack of 
liars as these critters." He glanced 
up at Meyerhoff. "They'll probab- 
ly drop a little fine on me and let 
me go." 

"A little fine of one Terran 
neck." Meyerhoff grinned nastily. 
"You've committed the most hein- 
ous crime these creatures can 
imagine, and they're going to get 
you for it if it's the last thing they 
do. I'm afraid, my friend, that 
your con-man days are over." 

Zeckler fished in the other man's 
pocket, extracted a cigarette, and 
lighted it with trembling fingers. 
"It's bad, then," he said finally. 

"It's bad, all right." 

Some shadow of the sly, elfin 
grin crept over the little con-man's 
face. "Well, at any rate, I'm glad 
they sent you over," he said weakly. 



"Nothing like a good lawyer to 
handle a trial — " 

"Lawyer? Not me! Oh, no — sor- 
ry, but no thanks." Meyerhoff's 
face beamed maliciously. I'm your 
advisor, old boy. Nothing else. I'm 
here to keep you from botching 
things up still worse for the Trad- 
ing Commission, that's all. 1 would- 
n't get tangled up in a mess with 
these creatures for anything!" He 
shook his head. "You're your own 
lawyer, Mr. Super-Salesman. It's 
all your show. And you'd better get 
your head out of the sand, or you're 
going to lose a case like it's never 
been lost before!" 



MEYERHOFF matched the lit- 
tle man's pale face, and grin- 
ned inwardly. In a way, he thought, 
it was a pity to see such a change 
in the rosy-cheeked, dapper, cock- 
sure little man who had talked his 
way glibly in and out of more jams 
than Meyerhoff could count. Trad- 
ing brought scalpers; it was almost 
inevitable that where rich and un- 
exploited trading ground was un- 
covered, it would first fall prey to 
the fast-trading boys. They spread 
out from Terra with the first wave 
of exploration— the slick, fast-talk- 
ing men who could work new terri- 
tories unfettered by the legal re- 
strictions that soon closed down the 
more established planets. The first 
men in were the richest out, and 
through some curious quirk of the 
Terrestrial mind, they knew they 
could always count on Terran pro- 
tection, however crooked and un- 
derhanded their methods. 

But occasionally a situation arose 
where .the civilization and social 



54 



ALAN E. NOURSE 



practices of the alien victims made 
it unwise to tamper. Altair I had 
been recognized at once by the 
Trading Commission as a commer- 
cial prize of tremendous value, but 
early reports had warned of the 
danger of wildcat trading on the 
little, musty, jungle-like planet with 
its shaggy, thrcc-eyed inhabitants — 
warned specifically against the con- 
fidence tactics so frequently used — 
but there was always somebody, 
Meycrhoff reflected sourly, who just 
didn't get the word. 

Zeckler puffed nervously on his 
cigarette, his narrow face a study in 
troubled concentration. "But I 
didn't do anything!" he exploded 
finally. "So I pulled an old con 
game. So what! Why should they 
get so excited? So I clipped a few 
thousand fast credits, pulled a little 
fast business." He shrugged elo- 
quently, spreading his hands. 
"Everybody's doing it. They do it 
to each other without batting an 
eye. You should see these critters 
operate on each other. Why, my 
little scheme was peanuts by com- 
parison — " 

Meyerhoff pulled a pipe from his 
pocket, and began stuffing the bowl 
with infinite patience. "And pre- 
cisely what sort of con game was 
it?" he asked quietly. 

Zeckler shrugged again. "The 
simplest, tiredest, moldiest old 
racket that ever made a quick 
nickel. Remember the old Terran 
gag about the Brooklyn Bridge? The 
same thing. Only these critters 
didn't want bridges. They wanted 
land — this gooey, slimey swamp 
they call 'farm land'. So I gave 
them what they wanted. I just sold 
them some land." 



Meyerhoff nodded fiercely. "You 
sure did. A hundred square kilos 
at a swipe. Only you sold the same 
hundred square kilos to a dozen 
different natives!" Suddenly he 
threw back his hands and roared. 
"Of all the things you shouldn't 
have done — " 

"But what's a chunk of land?" 

Meycrhoff shook his head hope- 
lessly. "If you hadn't been so 
greedy, you'd have found out what 
a chunk of land was to these na- 
tives before you started peddling it. 
You'd have found out other things 
about them, too. You'd have learn- 
ed that in spite of all their bumbling 
and fussing and squabbling they're 
not so dull. You'd have found out 
that they're marsupials, and that 
two out of five of them get thrown 
out of their mother's pouch before 
they're old enough to survive. You'd 
have realized that they have to start 
fighting for individual rights almost 
as soon as they're born. Anything 
goes, as long as it benefits them as 
individuals." 

Meyerhoff grinned at the little 
man's horrified face. "Never heard 
oi that, had you? And you've never 
heard of other things, too. You've 
probably never heard that there are 
just too many Altairians here for 
the food their planet can supply, 
and their diet is so finicky that they 
just can't live on anything that 
doesn't grow here. And consequent- 
ly, land is the key factor in their 
economy. Not money, nothing but 
land. 

"To get land, it's every man for 
himself, and the loser starves, and 
their entire legal and monetary sys- 
tem revolves on that principal. And 
they've built up the most confusing 



LETTER OF THE LAW 



55 



and impossible system of barter and 
trade imaginable, aimed at indi- 
vidual survival, with land as the 
value behind the credit. That ex- 
plains the lying — of course they're 
liars, with an economy like that. 
They've completely missed the con- 
cept of truth. 

"Pathological? You bet they're 
pathological ! Only a fool would 
tell the truth when his life depended 
on his being a better liar than the 
next guy! Lying is the time-honored 
tradition, with their entire legal 
system built around it — " 



ZECKLER snorted. "But how 
could they possibly have a legal 
system? I mean, if they don't recog- 
nize the truth when it slaps them 
in the face?" 

McyerhofF shrugged. "As we 
understand legal systems, I suppose 
they don't have one. They have 
only the haziest idea what truth 
represents, and they've shrugged off 
the idea as impossible and useless." 
He chuckled maliciously. "So you 
went out and found a chunk of 
ground in the uplands, and sold it 
to a dozen separate, self-centered, 
half-starved natives! Encroachment 
on private property is legal grounds 
for murder on this planet, and 
twelve of them descended on the 
same chunk of land at the same 
time, all armed with title-deeds — " 
Meyerhoff sighed. "You've got 
twelve mad Altairians in your hair. 
You've got a mad planet in your 
hair. And in the meantime, Terra's 
most valuable uranium strike in five 
centuries is threatening to cut off 
supply unless they sec your blood 
splattered liberally all the way from 



here to the equator." 

Zeckler was visibly shaken. 
"Look," he said weakly. "So I 
wasn't so smart — what am I going 
to do? I mean, are you going to sit 
quietly by and let them butcher me? 
How could I defend myself in a 
legal setup like this?" 

Mcycrhofl" smiled coolly. "You're 
going to get your sly little con-man 
brain to working, I think," he said 
softly. "By Interplanetary Rules, 
they have to give you a trial in Tcr- 
ran legal form — judge, jury, court 
procedure, all that folderol. They 
think it's a big joke — after all, what 
could a judicial oath mean to them? 
— but they agreed. Only thing is, 
they're going to hang you, if they 
die trying. So you'd better get those 
stunted little wits of yours to click- 
ing — and if you try to implicate me, 
even a little bit, I'll be out of there 
so fast you won't know what hap- 
pened." 

With that, Meyerhoff chuckled 
and strolled to the door. He jerked 
it inward sharply, and spilled three 
guards over on their faces. "Priva- 
cy," he grunted, and started back 
up the slippery corridor. 



IT CERTAINLY looked like a 
■ courtroom, at any rate. In the 
front of the long, damp stone room 
was a bench, with a seat behind it, 
and a small straight chair to the 
right. To the left was a stand with 
twelve chairs — larger chairs, with a 
railing running along the front. The 
rest of the room was filled almost 
to the door with seats facing the 
bench. Zeckler followed the shaggy- 
haired guard into the room, nod- 
ding approvingly. "Not such a bad 



56 



ALAN E. NOURSE 

wm 




arrangement," he said. "They must 
have gotten the idea fast." 

MeyerhofT wiped the perspiration 
from his forehead and shot the lit- 
tle con-man a stony glancet "At 
least you've got a courtroom, a 
judge, and a jury for this mess. Bc- 
\i >nd that—" He shrugged elo- 
quently. "I can't make any prom- 
ises." 

In the back of the room a door 
burst open with a bang. Loud, 
harsh voices were heard as half a 
dozen huge Altairians attempted to 
push through the door at once. 
Zeckler clamped on the headset to 
his translator unit, and watched the 
hubbub in the anteroom with grow- 
ing alann. Finally the question of 
precedence seemed to be settled, 
and a group of the Altairians filed 
into the room in order of stature, 



stalking across the room in flowing 
black robes, pug-nosed faces glow- 
ering in self-importance. They de- 
scended upon the jury box, grunt- 
ing and scrapping with each other 
for the first-row scats, and the judge 
took his place with obvious satis- 
faction behind the heavy wooden 
bench. Finally the prosecuting at- 
torney appeared, flanked by two 
clerks, who took their places beside 
him. The prosecutor eyed Zeckler 
with cold malevolence, then turned 
and delivered a sly wink at the 
judge. 

In a moment the room was a 
hubbub as it filled with the huge, 
bumbling, bearlike creatures, jostl- 
ing each other and fighting for 
seats, growling and complaining. 
Two small fights broke out in the 
rear, but were quickly subdued by 



LETTER OF THE LAW 



57 



the group of gendarmes guarding 
the entrance. Finally the judge 
glared down at Zeckler with all 
three eyes and pounded the bench 
top with a wooden mallet until the 
roar of activity subsided. The jury- 
men wriggled uncomfortably in 
their scats, exchanging winks, and 
finally turned their attention to the 
front of the court. 

"We are reading the case of the 
people of Altair I," the judge's 
voice roared out, "against one Har- 
ry Zackler — " he paused for a long, 
impressive moment — "Tcrran." 
The courtroom immediately burst 
into an angry growl, until the judge 
pounded the bench five or six times 
more. "This — creature — is hereby 
accused of the following crimes," 
the judge bellowed. "Conspiracy to 
overthrow the government of Al- 
tair I. Brutal murder of seventeen 
law-abiding citizens of the village of 
Karzan at the third hour before 
dawn in the second period after his 
arrival. Desecration of the Temple 
of our beloved Goddess Zcrmat, 
Queen of the Harvest. Conspiring 
with the lesser gods to cause the 
unprecedented drought in the Der- 
matti section of our fair globe. Ob- 
scene exposure of his pouch-marks 
in a public square. Four separate 
and distinct charges of jailbrcak 
and bribery — " the judge pounded 
the bench for order — "Espionage 
with the accursed scum of Altair II 
in preparation for interplanetary in- 
vasion — " 

The little con-man's jaw sagged 
lower and lower, the color draining 
from his face. He turned, wide- 
eyed, to Meyerhoff, then back to 
the judge. 

"The chairman of the jury," said 



the judge succinctly, "will read the 
verdict!" 

The little native in the front of 
the jury-box popped up like a pup- 
pet on a string. "Defendant found 
guilty on all counts," he said. 

"Defendant is guilty! The court 
will pronounce sentence — " 

"Now wait a minute!" Zeckler 
was on his feet, wild-eyed. "What 
kind of railroad job — " 

The judge blinked disappointed- 
ly at Paul Meyerhoff. "Not yet?" 
he asked, unhappily. 

"No." MeycrhofTs hands twitch- 
ed nervously. "Not yet, your honor. 
Later, your honor. The trial comes 
first." 



THE JUDGE looked as if his 
candy had been stolen. "But 
you said I should call for the ver- 
dict — " 

"Later. You have to have the 
trial before you can have the ver- 
dict." 

The Altairian shrugged indiffer- 
ently. "Now. . .later. . ." he mut- 
tered. 

"Have the prosecutor call his first 
witness." said Meyerhoff. 

Zeckler leaned over, his face 
ashen. "These charges," he hissed. 
"They're insane!" 

"Of course they arc," Meyerhoff 
hissed back. 

"But what am I going to — " 

"Sit tight. Let them set things 
up." 

"But those lies. They're liars, the 
whole pack of them — " He broke 
off as the prosecutor roared a name. 

The shaggy brute who took the 
stand was wearing a bright purple 
hat which sat rakishlv over one ear. 



58 



ALAN E. NOURSE 



He grinned the Altairian equivalent 
of a hungry grin at the prosecutor* 
Then he cleared his throat and 
started: "This Terran riffraff — " 

"The oath," muttered the judge. 
"We've got to have the oath." 

The prosecutor nodded, and four 
natives moved forward, carrying 
huge- inscribed marble slabs to the 
front of the court. One by one the 
chunks were reverently piled in a 
heap at the witness's feet. The wit- 
ness placed a huge, hairy paw on 
the cairn, and the prosecutor said, 
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the 
whole truth, and nothing but the 
truth, so help you — " He paused to 
squint at the paper in his hand, and 
finished on a puzzled note, " — God- 
dess?" 

The witness removed the paw 
from the rock pile long enough to 
scratch his ear. Then he replaced 
it, and replied, "Of course," in an 
injured tone. 

"Then tell this court what you 
have seen of the activities of this 
abominable wretch." 

The witness settled back into the 
chair, fixing one eye on Zcckler's 
face, another on the prosecutor, and 
closing the third as if in meditation. 
"I think it was on the fourth night 
of the seventh crossing of Altair II 
(may the Goddess cast a drought 
upon it) — or was it the seventh 
night of the fourth crossing?' — " he 
grinned apologetically at the judge 
■ — "when I was making my way 
back through town toward my 
blessed land-plot, minding my own 
business, your honor, after weeks of 
bargaining for the crop I was har- 
vesting. Then suddenly from the 
shadow of a building, this creature 
— " he waved his paw at Zeckler — 



"stopped me in my tracks with a 
vicious cry. He had a weapon I'd 
never seen before, and before I 
could find my voice he forced me 
back against the wall. I could see 
by the cruel glint in his eyes that 
there was no warmth, no sympathy 
in his heart, that I was — " 

"Objection !" Zeckler squealed 
plaintively, jumping to his feet. 
"This witness can't even remember 
what night he's talking about!" 

The judge looked startled. Then 
he pawed feverishly through his 
bundle of notes. "Overruled," he 
said abruptly. "Continue, please." 

The witness glowered at Zeckler. 
"As I was saying before this loutish 
interruption," he muttered, "I 
could sec that I was face to face 
with the most desperate of criminal 
types, even for Tcrrans. Note the 
shape of his head, the flabbincss of 
his ears! I was petrified with fear. 
And then, helpless as I was, this 
two-legged abomination began to 
shower me with threats of evil to 
my blessed home, dark threats of 
poisoning my land unless I would 
tell him where he could find the 
resting place of our blessed Goddess 

"I never saw him before in my 
life," Zeckler moaned to MeycrhofT, 
"Listen to him! Why should I care 
where their Goddess — " 

Mcyerhoff gave him a stony look. 
"The Goddess runs things around 
here. She makes it rain. If it does- 
n't rain, somebody's insulted her. 
It's very simple." 

"But how can I fight testimony 
like that?" 

"I doubt if you can fight it." 

"But they can't prove a word of 
it. . ." He looked at the jury, who 



LETTER OF THE LAW 



59 



were listening enraptured to the 
second witness on the stand. This 
one was testifying regarding the 
butcherous slaughter of eighteen 
(or was it twenty-three? Oh, yes, 
twenty-three) women and children 
in the suburban village of Karzan. 
The pogrom, it seemed, had been 
accomplished by an energy weapon 
which ate great, gaping holes in the 
sides of buildings. A third witness 
took the stand, continuing the 
drone as the room grew hotter and 
muggier. Zcckler grew paler and 
paler, his eyes turning glassy as the 
testimony piled up. "But it's not 
true" he whispered to MeyerhofT. 

"Of course it isn't! Can't you un- 
derstand? These people have no 
regard for truth. It's stupid, to 
them, silly, a mark of low intelli- 
gence. The only thing in the world 
they have any respect for is a liar 
bigger and more skillful than they 
are — " 



ZECKLER jerked around 
abruptly as he heard his name 
bellowed out. "Docs the defendant 
have anything to say before the jury 
delivers the verdict?" 

"Do I have—" Zcckler was 
across the room in a Hash, his pale 
cheeks suddenly taking on a fever- 
ish glow. He sat down gingerly on 
tin- witness chair, facing the judge, 
liis r\is bright with fear and excite- 
ment. "Your — your honor, I — I 
have a statement to make which 
will have a most important bearing 
on this case. You must listen with 
the greatest care . " He glanced 
quickly at MeyerhofT, and back to 
the judge. "Your honor," he said 
in a hushed voice, "you arc in grav- 



est of danger. All of you. Your lives 
— your very land is at stake." 

The judge blinked, and shuffled 
tlirough his notes hurriedly as a 
murmur arose in the court. "Our 
land?" 

"Your lives, your land, every- 
thing you hold dear," Zeckler said 
quickly, licking his lips nervously. 
"You must try to understand me — " 
he glanced apprehensively over his 
shoulder — "now, because I may 
not live long enough to repeat what 
I am about to tell you — " 

The murmur quieted down, all 
ears straining in their headsets to 
hear his words. "These charges," 
he continued, "all of them — diey're 
perfectly true. At least, they seem 
to be perfectly true. But in every 
instance, I was working with heart 
and soul, risking my life, for the 
welfare of your beautiful planet." 

There was a loud hiss from the 
back of the court. Zcckler frowned 
and rubbed his hands together. "It 
was my misfortune," he said, "to go 
to the wrong planet when I tiist 
came to Altair from my homeland 
on Terra. I— I landed on Altair II, 
a grave mistake, but as it turned 
out, a very fortunate error. Because 
in attempting to arrange trading in 
that frightful place, I made certain 
contacts." His voice trembled, and 
sank lower. "I learned the horrible 
thing which is about to happen to 
this planet, at the hands of those 
barbarians. The conspiracy is theirs, 
not mine. They have bribed your 
Goddess, flattered her and lied to 
her, coerced her all-powerful good- 
ness to their own evil interests, pre- 
paring for the day when they could 
persuade her to cast your land into 
the firey furnace of a ten year 



60 



ALAN E. NOURSE 



drought — " 

Somebody in the middle of the 
court burst out laughing. One by 
one die natives nudged one another, 
and booed, and guffawed, until the 
rising tide of racket drowned out 
Zecklcr's words. "The defendant is 
obviously lying," roared the prose- 
cutor over the pandemonium. "Any 
fool knows that the Goddess can't 
be bribed. How could she be a 
Goddess if she could?" 

Zeckler grew paler. "But — per- 
haps they were very clever — " 

"And how could they flatter her, 
when she knows, beyond doubt, 
that she is the most exquisitely ra- 
diant creature in all the Universe? 
And you dare to insult her, drag her 
name in the dirt — *' 

The hisses grew louder, more bel- 
ligerent. Cries of "Butcher him!" 
and "Scald his bowels!" rose from 
the courtroom. The judge banged 
for silence, his eyes angry. 

"Unless the defendant wishes to 
take up more of our precious time 
with these ridiculous lies, the jury 

"Wait! Your honor, I request a 
short recess before I present my 
final plea." 

"Recess?" 

"A few moments to collect my 
thoughts, to arrange my case." 

The judge settled back with a 
disgusted snarl. "Do I have to?" he 
asked Mcycrhoff. 

Meyerhoff nodded. The judge 
shrugged, pointing over his should- 
er at the little anteroom. "You can 
go in there," he said. 

Somehow, Zeckler managed to 
stumble from the witness stand, 
amid riotous booes and hisses, and 
tottered into the anteroom. 



ZECKLER puffed hungrily on 
a cigarette, and looked up at 
Mcycrhoff with haunted eyes. "It — 
itrdocsn't look so good," he mut- 
tered. 

MeycrhofTs eyes were worried, 
too. For some reason, he felt a 
surge of pity and admiration for the 
haggard little con-man. "It's worse 
than I'd anticipated," he admitted 
glumly. "That was a good try, but 
you just don't know enough about 
them and their Goddess." He sat 
dbwn wearily. "I don't sec what 
you can do. They want your blood, 
and they're going to have it. They 
just won't believe you, no ma'ttcr 
how big a lie you tell." 

Zeckler sat in silence for a mo- 
ment. "This lying business," he 
said finally. "Exactly how does it 
work?" 

"The biggest, most convincing 
liar wins. It's as simple as that. It 
doesn't matter how outlandish a 
whopper you tell, Unless, of course, 
they've made up their minds that 
you just naturally aren't as big a 
liar as they arc. And it looks like 
that's just what they've done. It 
wouldn't make any difference to 
them what you say — unless, some- 
how, you could make them believe 
it." 

Zeckler was on his feet, his eyes 
suddenly bright with excitement. 
"Wait a minute," he said tensely. 
"To tell them a lie that they'd have 
to believe — a lie they simply could- 
n't help but believe—" He turned 
on Mcycrhoff, his hands trembling. 
"Do they think the way we do — I 
mean, with logic, cause and effect, 
examining evidence and drawing 
conclusions? Given certain evidence, 
would they have to draw the same 



LETTER OF THE LAW 



61 



conclusion that we have to draw?" 

Meycrhofif blinked. "Well — yes. 
Oh, yes, they're perfectly logical." 

Zcckler's eyes flashed, and a huge 
grin broke out on his sallow face. 
His thin body fairly shook, and he 
started hopping up and down on 
one foot, staring idiotically into 
space. "If I could only think. . ." 
he muttered. "Somebody — some- 
where — something I read. . , 

"Whatever are you talking 
about?" 

"It was a Greek, I think. . ." 

Meyerhoff stared at. him. "Oh, 
come now. Have you gone off your 
rocker completely? You've got a 
problem on your hands, man — " 

"No, no — I've got a problem in 
the bag!" Zeckler's cheeks flushed. 
"Let's go back in there — I think 
I've got an answer!" 

The courtroom quieted the mo- 
ment they opened the door, and the 
judge banged the gavel for silence. 
As soon as Zeckler had taken his 
seat on the witness stand, the judge 
turned to the head juryman. "Now, 
then," he said with happy finality. 
"The jury — " 

"Hold on! Just one minute 
more." 

The judge stared down at Zeck- 
ler as if he were a bug on a rock. 
"Oh, yes. You had something else 
to say. Well, go ahead and say it." 

Zeckler looked sharply around 
the hushed room. "You want to 
convict me," he said softly, "in the 
worst sort of way. Isn't that right?" 

The judge looked uncomfortable. 
"If you've got something to say, go 
ahead and say it." 

"I've got just one statement to 
make. Short and sweet. But you'd 
better listen to it, and think it out 



carefully before you decide that you 
really want to convict me." He 
paused, and glanced slyly at the 
judge. "You don't think much of 
those who tell the truth, it seems. 
Well, put this statement in your 
record, then." His voice was loud 
and clear in the still room. "Alt 
Earthmen are absolutely incapable 
of telling the truth." 

Puzzled frowns appeared on the 
jury's faces. One or two exchanged 
startled glances, and the room was 
still as death. The judge stared at 
him, and then at Meyerhoff, then 
back. "But you. . ." he stammered. 
"You're. . ." he stopped in mid- 
sentence, his jaw sagging. 

One of the jurymen let out a lit- 
tle squeak, and fainted dead away. 
It took, all in all, about ten seconds 
for the statement to soak in. 

Then pandemonium broke loose 
in the courtroom. 



REALLY," said Harry Zeckler 
loftily, "it was so obvious I'm 
amazed that it didn't occur to me 
first thing." He settled himself 
down comfortably in die control 
cabin of the Interplanetary rocket 
and grinned at the outline of Altair 
IV looming larger in the view- 
screen. 

Paul Meyerhoff stared stonily at 
the controls, his lips compressed 
angrily. "You might at least have 
told me what you were planning." 

"And take the chance of being 
overheard? Don't be silly. It had to 
come as a bombshell. I had to es- 
tablish myself as a liar, the prize 
liar of them all, but I had to tell 
the sort of lie that they simply 
could not cope with. Something 



62 



ALAN E. NOURSE 



that would throw them into such 
utter confusion that they wouldn't 
dare convict mc." He grinned imp- 
ishly at Meyerhoff. "The paradox 
of Epimincdes the Cretan. It really 
stopped them cold. They knew I 
was an Earthman, which meant 
that my statement that Earthmcn 
were liars was a lie, which meant 
that maybe I wasn't a liar, in which 
case — oh, it was tailor-made." 

"It sure was." MeyerhofTs voice 
was a snarl. 

"Well, it made me out a liar in 
a class they couldn't approach, did- 
n't it?" 

MeyerhofTs face was purple with 
anger. "Oh, indeed it did! And it 
put all Earthmen in exactly the 
same class, too." 

"So what's honor among thieves? 
I got off, didn't I?" 

Meyerhoff turned on him fierce- 
ly. "Oh, you got off just fine. You 
scared the living daylights out of 
them. In an con of lying they never 
have run up against a short-circuit 
like that. You've also completely 
botched any hope of ever setting 
up a trading alliance with Altair I, 
and that includes uranium, too. 
Smart people don't gamble with 
loaded dice. You scared them so 
badly they don't want anything to 
do with us." 

Zeckler's grin broadened, and he 
leaned back luxuriously. "Ah, well. 
After all, the Trading Alliance was 
your outlook, wasn't it? What a 
pity!" He clucked his tongue sadly. 
"Me, I've got a fortune in credits 
sitting back at the consulate waiting 
for me — enough to keep me on silk 
for quite a while, I might say. I 
think I'll just take a nice, long va- 
cation." 



Meyerhoff turned to him, and a 
twinkle of malignant glee appeared 
in his eyes. "Yes, I think you will. 
I'm quite sure of it, in fact. Won't 
cost you a cent, either." 

"Eh?" 

Meyerhoff grinned unpleasantly. 
He brushed an imaginary lint fleck 
from his lapel, and loked up at 
Zeckler slyly. "That — uh — jury 
trial. The Altairians weren't any 
too happy to oblige. They wanted 
to execute you outright. Thought 
a trial was awfully silly— until they 
got their money back, of course. Not 
too much — just three million 
credits. . ." 

Zeckler went white. "But that 
money was in banking custody!" 

"Is that right? My goodness. You 
don't supose they could have lost 
those papers, do you?" Meyerhoff 
grinned at the little con-man. "And 
incidentally, you're under arrest, 
you know." 

A choking sound came from 
Zeckler's throat. "Arrest/" 

"Oh, yes. Didn't I tell you? Con- 
spiring to undermine the authority 
of the Terran Trading Commission. 
Serious charge, you know. Yes, I 
think we'll take a nice long vaca- 
tion together — straight back to Ter- 
ra. And there I think you'll face 
a jury trial.*' 

Zeckler sputtered. "There's no 
evidence! You've got nothing on 
me! What kind of a frame are you 
trying to pull?" 

"A lovely frame. Airtight. A 
frame from the bottom up, and 
you're right square in the middle. 
And this time — " Meyerhoff tapped 
a cigarette on his thumb with hap- 
py finality — "this time I don't think 
you'll get off." ... THE END 




The Army had a new theme song: "Anything 
you can do, we can do better!" And they meant 
anything, including up-to-date hornpipes! 



NAVY DAY 

By Harry Harrison 

Illustrated by Kelly Freat 



GENERAL WINGROVE 
looked at the rows of faces 
without seeing them. His vision 
went beyond the Congress of the 
United States, past the balmy June 
day to another day that was com- 



63 



ing. A day when the Army would 
have its destined place of authority. 
He drew a deep breath and de- 
livered what was perhaps the 
shortest speech ever heard in the 
hallowed halls of Congress: 



64 



HARRY HARRISON 



"The General Staff of the U.S. 
Army requests Congress to abolish 
the archaic branch of the armed 
forces known as the U. S. Navy." 

The aging Senator from 
Georgia checked his hearing aid to 
see if it was in operating order, 
while the press box emptied itself 
in one concerted rush and a clat- 
ter of running feet that died off in 
the direction of the telephone 
room. A buzz of excited comment 
ran through the giant chamber. 
One by one the heads turned to 
face the Naval section where rows 
of blue figures stirred and buzzed 
like smoked-out bees. The knot of 
men around a paunchy figure heavy 
with gold braid broke up and Ad- 
miral Fitzjames climbed slowly to 
his feet. 

Lesser men have quailed before 
that piercing stare, but General 
Wingrove was never the lesser man. 
The admiral tossed his head with 
disgust, every line of his body de- 
noting outraged dignity. He turned 
to his audience, a small pulse beat- 
ing in his forehead. 

"I cannot comprehend the gen- 
eral's attitude, nor can I under- 
stand why he has attacked the Navy 
in this unwarranted fashion. The 
Navy has existed and will always 
exist as the first barrier of Ameri- 
can defense. I ask you, gentlemen, 
to ignore this request as you would 
ignore the statements of any per- 
son . . . er, slightly demented. I 
should like to offer a recommenda- 
tion that the general's sanity be in- 
vestigated, and an inquiry be made 
as to the mental health of anyone 
else connected with this preposter- 
ous proposal!" 

The general smiled calmly. "I 



understand, Admiral, and really 
don't blame you for being slightly 
annoyed. But, please let us not bring 
this issue of national importance 
down to a shallow personal level. 
The Army has facts to back up this 
request — facts that shall be demon- 
strated tomorrow morning." 

Turning his back on the raging 
admiral, General Wingrove in- 
cluded all the assembled solons in 
one sweeping gesture. 

"Reserve your judgment until 
that time, gentlemen, make no hasty 
judgments until you have seen the 
force of argument with which we 
back up our request. It is the end 
of an era. In the morning the Navy 
joins its fellow fossils, the dodo and 
the brontosaurus." 

The admiral's blood pressure 
mounted to a new record and the 
gentle thud of his unconscious body 
striking the floor was the only sound 
to break the shocked silence of the 
giant hall. 



THE EARLY morning sun 
warmed the white marble of the 
Jefferson Memorial and glinted 
from the soldiers' helmets and the 
roofs of the packed cars that 
crowded forward in a slow-moving 
stream. All the gentlemen of Con- 
gress were there, the passage of 
their cars cleared by the screaming 
sirens of motorcycle policemen. 
Around and under the wheels of the 
official cars pressed a solid wave of 
government workers and common 
citizens of the capital city. The 
trucks of the radio and television 
services pressed close, microphones 
and cameras extended. 

The stage was set for a great day. 



NAVY DAY 



65 



Neat rows of olive drab vehicles 
curved along the water's edge. Jeeps 
and half-tracks shouldered close by 
weapons carriers and six-bys, all of 
them shrinking to insignificance be- 
side the looming Patton tanks. A 
speakers' platform was set up in the 
center of the line, near the audi- 
ence. 

At precisely 10 a.m. General Win- 
grove stepped forward and scowled 
at the crowd until they settled into 
an uncomfortable silence. His 
speech was short and consisted of 
nothing more than amplifications 
of his opening statement that ac- 
tions speak louder than words- He 
pointed to the first truck in line, a 
2{^j-ton filled with an infantry 
squad sitting stiffly at attention. 

The driver caught the signal and 
kicked the engine into life; with 
a grind of gears it moved forward 
toward the river's edge. There was 
an indrawn gasp from the crowd 
as the front wheels ground over the 
marble parapet — then the truck was 
plunging down towards the muddy 
waters of the Potomac. 

The wheels touched the water 
and the surface seemed to sink 
while taking on a strange glassy 
character. The truck roared into 
high gear and rode forward on the 
surface of the water surrounded 
by a saucer-shaped depression. It 
parked two-hundred yards off shore 
and the soldiers, goaded by the 
sergeant's bark, leapt out and lined 
up with a showy present arms. 

The general returned the salute 
and waved to the remaining ve- 
hicles. They moved forward in a 
series of maneuvers that indicated 
a great number of rehearsal hours 
on some hidden pond. The tanks 



rumbled slowly over the water 
while the jeeps cut back and forth 
through their lines in intricate pat- 
terns. The trucks backed and 
turned like puffing ballerinas. 

The audience was rooted in a 
hushed silence, their eyeballs bulg- 
ing. They continued to watch the 
amazing display as General Win- 
grove spoke again: 

"You see before you a typical 
example of Army ingenuity, de- 
veloped in Army laboratories. These 
motor units arc supported on the 
surface of the water by an inten- 
sifying of the surface tension in 
their immediate area. Their weight 
is evenly distributed over the sur- 
face, causing the shallow depres- 
sions you see around them. 

"This remarkable feat has been 
accomplished by the use of the 
Domifter. A remarkable invention 
that is named after that brilliant 
scientist, Colonel Robert A. Dorn, 
Commander of the Brooke Point 
Experimental Laboratory. It was 
there that one of the civilian em- 
ployees discovered the Dorn effect 
— under the Colonel's constant gui- 
dance, of course. 

"Utilizing this invention the 
Army now becomes master of the 
sea as well as the land. Army con- 
voys of trucks and tanks can blan- 
ket the world. The surface of the 
water is our highway, our motor 
park, our battleground— the air- 
field and runway for our planes." 

Mechanics were pushing a Shoot- 
ing Star onto the water. They 
stepped clear as flame gushed from 
the tail pipe; with the familiar 
whooshing rumble it sped down the 
Potomac and hurled itself into the 
ah*. 



66 



HARRY HARRISON 



"When this cheap and simple 
method of crossing oceans is 
adopted it will of course mean the 
end of that, fantastic medieval 
anachronism, the Navy. No need 
for billion-dollar aircraft carriers, 
battleships, drydocks and all the 
other cumbersome junk that keeps 
those boats and things afloat. Give 
the taxpayer back his hard-earned 
dollar!" 

Teeth grated in the Naval sec- 
tion as carriers and battleships were 
called "boats" and the rest of 
America's sea might lumped under 
the casual heading of "things." Lips 
were curled at the transparent ap- 
peal to the taxpayer's pocketbook. 
But with leaden hearts they knew 
that all this justified wrath and con- 
tempt would avail them nothing. 
This was Army Day with a venge- 
ance, and the doom of the Navy 
seemed inescapable. 

The Army had made elaborate 
plans for what they called "Opera- 
tion Sinker." Even as the general 
spoke the publicity mills ground 
into high gear. From coast to coast 
the citizens absorbed the news with 
their morning nourishment. 

", . . Agnes, you hear what the 
radio said! The Army's gonna give 
a trip around the world in a B-36 
as first prize in this limerick con- 
test. All you have to do is fill in the 
last line, and mail one copy to 
the Pentagon and the other to the 
Navy . . ." 

The Naval mail room had stand- 
ing orders to bum all the limericks 
when they came in, but some of the 
newer men seemed to think the 
entire thing was a big joke. Com- 
mander Bullman found one in the 
mess hall : 



The Army will always be there, 

On the land, on the sea, in the 
air 

So why should the Navy 

Take all of the gravy . . . 
to which a seagoing scribe had 
added : 

And not give us ensigns our 
share? 

The newspapers were filled daily 
with photographs of mighty B-36's 
landing on Lake Erie, and grinning 
soldiers making mock beachhead 
attacks on Coney Island. Each man 
wore a buzzing black box at his 
waist and walked on the bosom of 
the now quiet Atlantic like a bib- 
lical prophet. 

Radio and television also carried 
the thousands of news releases that 
poured in an unending flow from 
the Pentagon Building. Cards, let- 
ters, telegrams and packages de- 
scended on Washington in an over- 
whelming torrent. The Navy De- 
partment was the unhappy recipi- 
ent of deprecatory letters and a vast 
quantity of little cardboard battle- 
ships. 

The people spoke and their rep- 
resentatives listened closely. This 
was an election year. There didn't 
seem to be much doubt as to the 
decision, particularly when the re- 
duction in the budget was consid- 
ered. 

It took Congress only two months 
to make up its collective mind. The 
people were all pro-Army. The nov- 
elty of the idea had fired their 
imaginations. 

They were about to take the final 
vote in the lower house. If the 
amendment passed it would go to 
the states for ratification, and their 
votes were certain to follow that of 



NAVY DAY 



67 



Congress. The Navy had fought a 
last-ditch battle to no avail. The 
balloting was going to be pretty 
much of a sure thing — the wet 
water Navy would soon become an- 
cient history. 

For some reason the admirals 
didn't look as unhappy as they 
should. 



THE NAVAL Department had 
requested one last opportunity to 
address the Congress. Congress had 
patronizingly granted permission, 
for even the doomed man is allowed 
one last speech. Admiral Fitzjames, 
who had recovered from his chol- 
eric attack, was the appointed 
speaker. 

"Gentlemen of the Congress of 
the United States. We in the Navy 
have a fighting tradition. We 'damn 
the torpedoes' and sail straight 
ahead into the enemy's fire if that 
is necessary. We have been stabbed 
in the back — we have suffered a 
second Pearl Harbor sneak attack! 
The Army relinquished its rights 
to fair treatment with this attack. 
Therefore we are counter-attack- 
ing!" Worn out by his attacking 
and mixed metaphors, the Admiral 



mopped his brow. 

"Our laboratories have been 
working night and day on the per- 
fection of a device we hoped we 
would never be forced to use. It 
is now in operation, having passed 
the final trials a few days ago. 

"The significance of this device 
cannot be underestimated. We are 
so positive of its importance that — 
we are demanding that the Army 
be abolished!" 

He waved his hand towards the 
window and bellowed one word. 

"LOOK!" 

Everyone looked. They blinked 
and looked again. They rubbed 
their eyes and kept looking. 

Sailing majestically up the mid- 
dle of Constitution Avenue was the 
battleship Missouri. 

The Admiral's voice rang 
through the room like a trumpet of 
victory. 

"The Mark-1 Debinder, as you 
see, temporarily lessens the binding 
energies that hold molecules of solid 
matter together. Solids become liq- 
uids, and a ship equipped with 
this device can sail anywhere in the 
world — on sea or land. Take your 
vote, gentlemen; the world awaits 
your decision." . . , THE END 



Don't Forget: 



■f 



Is Monthly! 



TWICE AS GOOD— TWICE AS OFTEN! The best science 
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Space travel is possible. Even the worst cynics now admit that, 
but some still ask skeptically why it's needed, and what possible 
good it can do. Here's a new and surprising answer! 



A WORD 

FDR FREEDOM 

By James E. Gunn 

Illustrated by Rudolph Polois 



FROM THE lascivious embrace 
of the pneumatic chair in the 
anteroom, Bryson watched the sec- 
retary with the dark hair and the 
blue eyes being efficient over her 
typewriter. She was small, pretty, 
and trim. She wore a class-five 
navy-blue suit with a white, starch- 
ed collar, but the figure beneath 
was strictly Class A. 

He would have enjoyed watching 
her longer as a slow flush creeping 
up beneath her clear, creamy skin 
said that she was not unaware of 
his admiration, but the box on her 
desk murmured and she looked up. 

"You may go in now, Mr. Bry- 
son," she said respectfully to his 
gray-pinstripe, class-three business 
suit. "Mr. Gregg is expecting you." 



69 



His shoes clicked across the as- 
phalt die, and the solid door swung 
silently open in front of him. The 
room was large, he thought, paus- 
ing at the doorway — larger than the 
anteroom. And then he realized 
that it was mainly an illusion, that 
the room was not over twenty by 
twenty-five. 

There were no blast-dangerous 
windows, of course, but the upper 
half of one wall was almost all mir- 
ror. That helped. But the most 
compelling feature of the room was 
the biggest example of the popular 
three-dimensional pictures Bryson 
had ever seen. It was a landscape, 
done with realism if not with feel- 
ing: rolling green fields, rising to 
low wooded hills in the background, 



70 



JAMES E. GUNN 



lighted from without in the Dutch 
manner. 

Then the tall, thin, greying man 
was approaching with his hand out- 
stretched. 

"I'm Ben Gregg," he said with 
nervous energy. "Call me Ben, And 
you arc John Bryson." 

"That's right." 

Gregg's handshake was firm and 
dry. 1 Ic gestured Bryson to a chair 
and settled himself behind the 
broad desk, picked up the manu- 
script from the pile at his side, and 
laid it in front of him. 

"Er-ah — I wanted to speak to 
you personally," he said uncertain- 
ly, "because I didn't think I could 
put what I had to say in writing. 
Let mc say first that this is a good 
story~cr — a very good story. It has 
strong believable characters, a con- 
vincing, significant plot, effective 
description — " 

His voice trailed away. 

"But?" Bryson prompted drily. 

Gregg smiled and relaxed a little. 

"Yes. But I can't publish it." 

He tossed the manuscript across 
the desk. 

"The language?" Bryson asked. 
"The words?" 

Gregg nodded. 

"Exactly. Pm as willing to try 
something new as the next editor — 
maybe a little more so — but this 
has too much against it." 

"I know," Bryson nodded. 
"That's why I sent the story to you. 
If it doesn't go over here, it hasn't 
a chance anywhere." 

"That's very flattering," Gregg 
said, getting up to pace back and 
forth behind his desk. "But you 
must understand my position. We 
publish a middle-class magazine — 



classes six to three to be exact — and 
in these days, when one must aim 
at a specific market, that means a 
great deal. The middle-class has 
always been the stoutest defender 
of the status quo, both in the social 
order and the literary field. You 
can't offend its ideas of propriety 
and expect anything but failure." 

"Unfortunately that's true," Bry- 
son agreed. "And yet that's where 
one must start if one is ever to do 
any good." 

Gregg stopped for a moment and 
stared at him with a speculative 
look in his dark eyes. 

"I thought that you had more 
than a literary objective in mind. 
Maybe I'm in sympathy with it. 
But the time has passed when you 
can inject all those new phrases 
and words. They don't sound prop- 
er; they don't seem, even to mc, in 
good taste. You could have done it 
twenty years ago — in the forties or 
even the early fifties— but not to- 
day. Clean it up and I think I can 
use it." 

Bryson shook his head. 

"That would be removing the 
whole purpose of it." 

Bryson paused and his eyes drift- 
ed to the picture. It might have 
been a window looking out onto 
rural New England. He looked 
back at Gregg. 

"The language is in a strait- 
jacket," he continued abruptly. 
"The English language has harden- 
ed and calcified, ceased to grow, 
has become rigid and inflexible, 
hostile to anything new. English 
literature is dying because of this 
straitjacket — it is killing the vigor 
which has always been its dominant 
feature. Unless something is done, 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



71 



the language will soon lie as dead 
;irifl dry as Sanskrit." 

Gregg smiled. 

"Let mc hazard a guess. You're 
a teacher." 

Bryson nodded. 

"English. You should see the 
young writers I'm trying to help — 
beating their heads against the im- 
penetrable wall of language, trying, 
as all writers must, to express the 
inexpressible and finding them- 
selves tied down by dead or dying 
words, rendered impotent and 
mute. It's enough to put out the 
fires of mature genius, much less 
discourage forever struggling young 
talent. I tell you, Mr. Gregg — " 

"Ben," Gregg smiled. 

"I tell you, Ben, if something 
isn't done a whole literary genera- 
tion will be wiped out — a catastro- 
phe from which English literature 
might not recover for centuries. 
That wall must be leveled, Ben. 
That barrier of language must be 
broken down. The straitjackct 
must be unloosed, or circulation 
will be cut off entirely and limbs 
will have to be amputated 3 even if 
the patient does not die." 

Gregg sighed. 

"Which it looks as if it will. The 
cold war slowly gets hotter, like a 
bunch of oily rags thrown under 
the basement steps. Maybe you're 
worrying too much about a lan- 
guage there may be no one around 
to speak." 

Bryson shook his head. 

"That's no solution. We've got 
to act as if the human race were 
going to pull through this, or we 
may have nothing worthwhile left, 
even if we do survive." 

"But what good will this one 



story do?" Gregg objected. 

Bryson spread his hands helpless- 

ly. 

"I don't know. 1 he hole in the 
dike maybe? The crack in the wall? 
The slit in the straitjackct? You 
have to start somewhere." 

"But, I'm afraid, not here," 
Gregg said with finality. "Not be- 
cause 1 don't believe in much of 
what you've been saying — I do; but 
because I don't think it will do any 
good." 

Bryson's eyes drifted back to the 
picture, and Gregg's gaze followed. 
His laugh was a little embarrassed. 

"Pretty poor, isn't it?" he ad- 
mitted. But it's there for psycho- 
logical, not aesthetic, reasons. A 
touch of claustrophobia, the neuro- 
sis of our age. Being in these win- 
dowlcss offices for hours on end, I 
begin to get a little stifled. Then I 
look at that thing and imagine it's 
a window and it goes away some- 
times." 



BRYSON LOOKED at Gregg 
and back at the picture, back 
and forth as if he had suddenly dis- 
covered some strange identity be- 
tween the two. Gregg followed him 
with a puzzled frown for a mo- 
ment ; then his face cleared and he 
began to chuckle. 

"I see what you mean," he said, 
a little sheepishly. "Maybe you're 
right. Come on — the least I can do 
is buy you a drink." 

The door swung open as he ap- 
proached. Bryson followed him in- 
to the reception room. 

"I'm going out for a moment, 
Miss Haines," Gregg informed the 
secretary. "If anything urgent 



72 



JAMES E. GUNN 



comes up, you can get me at 
Tony's." 

As Bryson passed the desk, he 
bent over and breathed huskily in 
her ear, but loud enough for Gregg 
to overhear: "What do you say we 
go out on the town tonight, you 
and me?" 

She jerked back, her face shock- 
ed and white, as if she had just 
learned that he was radioactive. 

"Okay, okay," Bryson said, 
straightening and shrugging. "If 
you're busy you're busy." 

When he joined Gregg in the 
hall, he was laughing. 

"You see?" he said, after they 
were out of earshot. 

Gregg raised a thin, dark eye- 
brow. 

"You surely didn't expect any- 
thing else?" 

"Oh, the answer was all right. Al- 
though I must admit I'd have been 
more pleased — in one way — with 
another. But the reaction was a lit- 
tle violent, don't you think?" 

"That 'let's go out on the town 
tonight' was pretty vulgar," Gregg 
objected. 

"Romance speaks all languages," 
Bryson said as Gregg signaled for 
the elevator. "No, I'm afraid the 
answer would have been the same 
no matter how I phrased it. A 
class-five girl doesn't go out with a 
class-three man and keep her repu- 
tation. You'd be surprised how 
many dates I've missed that way." 

He sighed. 

"All the lovely girls I see are in 
other classes. The barriers are 
getting high and thick. On the 
other hand, if you had invited her 
to your apartment, I bet she'd have 
come — reluctantly, maybe, but 



she'd have come. You know — droit 
de seigneur?" 

"I'm married," Gregg said stiffly. 

"The principle's the same," Bry- 
son laughed. "The attitude of the 
lower classes is getting positively 
medieval." 

"You might be right," Gregg re- 
laxed and smiled. "But I hope you 
don't repeat the experiment. That 
sort of thing might quickly demoral- 
ize my staff — besides giving me dan- 
gerous ideas." 

The elevator doors swung open. 

"Good afternoon, Mr. Gregg," 
the boy said, and with almost im- 
perceptible shading, "Good after- 
noon, sir." 

As they faced the closing doors, 
Bryson nodded significantly toward 
the back of the boy's head. Gregg 
shrugged in recognition. The ele- 
vator lunged to a cushioned stop. 

"I must admit," Gregg said, 
when the doors had closed behind 
them and they were walking across 
the foyer, "that I'm becoming 
aware of a lot of things I took for 
granted before. And I'm not sure 
I like the awakening." 

"Oh, we're all falling into molds. 
It's a highly stratified society in 
which everybody knows his place 
and nobody steps out of it. Except 
me." 

Bryson grinned recklessly. 

"I make rebellion a habit — an in- 
effectual one, perhaps, but soul- 
satisfying. Once I carried a sam- 
ple of low-grade uranium ore into 
a security lock and shoved it under 
the gciger. You should have seen 
the commotion. Bolts clicked, 
bright lights came on, the scanner 
stamped my card and the video told 
me in a cold voice that my picture 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



73 



and identifying characteristics were 
in the wanted file and that I must 
not move. Within a minute, an 
emergency car wailed up outside, 
the front door clicked open, I walk- 
ed out with five guns covering me, 
and I was whisked away to head- 
quarters. Then's when the fun 
really began." 

"You have plenty of nerve," 
Gregg commented drily. 

"Oh, thatl" Bryson shrugged. "I 
was shaking before it was over. But 
I did manage to wangle a release 
before they got everything straight- 
ened out. I still have a little fun 
with it." 

Gregg opened the door, and they 
stepped into the security lock. The 
editor slipped his card quickly into 
the slot and faced the screen. A 
cackle, and the card was back in 
his hand. Then Bryson inserted the 
corner of his card and grinned at 
Gregg. 

"Watch what happens!" he said 
slyly. 

He pushed the card and it dis- 
appeared into the wall. Extra bolts 
clicked in the doors. The lock was 
filled with an intense, merciless light 
that showed up every line, every 
bead of sweat on Gregg's paling 
face. 

"What the hell, Bryson—" he be- 
gan, his voice shaking. 

"Listen!" Bryson chuckled. 

The video sprang into life. 

"Oh, my God!" said a weary, dis- 
illusioned voice. "It's you again." 

"There seems to be something 
wrong with the machine," Bryson 
said apologetically. 

"There's nothing wrong with the 
machine," the voice shouted. "It's 
you — you — you — troublemak- 



er! There's something wrong with 
you!" 

"Maybe it's the card," Bryson 
sugested meekly. 

"Of course it's the card!" the 
voice screami'd. With obvious ef- 
fort, the voice regained control of 
itself. "See here, Bryson t I'm warn- 
ing you for the last time. Come in 
and get a new card or I'll send a 
squad out to bring you in!" 



THE SCREEN snapped off with 
finality. The bolts shot back, 
and the outside door swung open. 
Gregg stepped precipitately onto the 
sidewalk, Bryson following more 
slowly. He had a little difficulty 
walking; he was shaking with 
laughter. Finally he took a hand- 
kerchief and wiped the tears from 
his eyes. 

"That clerk!" he said. "Some- 
times I think he'll crack wide 
open." 

Bryson glanced at Gregg, and his 
laughter was suddenly cut off. 
Gregg's face was still white; he was 
mopping at his forehead. 

"Oh, say," Bryson said, sincerely 
apologetic now. "I'm sorry I upset 
you. I had no idea — " 

"It wasn't that," Gregg said, 
smiling feebly. "It's the being shut 
up — you know!" 

"I should have remembered," 
Bryson said, waggling his head re- 
pentantly. "I'm never troubled 
with it, and I tend to forget. For- 
give me, will you?" 

Gregg waved his hand and man- 
aged a ghost of a chuckle. 

"Forget it. It was rather amus- 
ing, at that." 

The sidewalks were busy, but the 



74 



JAMES E. GUNN 




steady streams of pedestrians had 
formed an eddy around them, care- 
fully delineated. As they walked 
south, the eddy followed them. 
Over the heads of the crowd, Bry- 
son could see other eddies, some 
approaching, others traveling in the 
same direction as they were. 

The general stream seemed to 
separate into layers, like unmixable 
liquids: along the street side the 
class nine and ten, laborers; next, 
classes seven and eight, skilled 
workers and technicians ; toward 
the buildings, classes five and six, 
white-collar workers, class four, su- 
pervisors and students; in the mid- 
dle, class threes and above. Even 
a casual eye could detect the subtle 
but definite tones, cut, and style of 
clothing that marked the differ- 



Then another eddy met theirs 
and merged with it for a moment. 
Gregg nodded, with precise equali- 
ty, at the class-two businessman in 
the center. Then the eddies split 
apart again, like a fissioning 
amoeba. 

"Rebellion is all right as an in- 
dividual protest," Gregg remarked, 
"but it's suicidal for anyone de- 
pendent on public approval — in a 
purely pragmatic dollars and cents 
way, at that." 

"Perhaps you're underestimating 
the sub-current of revolt among 
your readers?" 

Gregg scoffed. 

"What sub-current? You should 
read the letters I get. The slightest 
deviation from the norm is greeted 
with howls of protest and demands 
for the heads not only of the writer 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



75 



but myself. Would you like to know 
what would happen if I printed 
your story?" 
Bryson nodded. 

"Well," Gregg began, "first, it 
would stand out like a prostitute at 
a meeting of the Anti-Sex League. 
It would be inconsistent with the 
rest of the material in the maga- 
zine. The critical letters would 
descend upon us like a Second 
Flood, half of them threatening to 
cancel their subscriptions. Various 
organizations for the suppression of 
this or that would launch cam- 
paigns against us. We'd be labeled 
'vulgar,' 'immoral,' 'indecent,' 'sub- 
versive,' and finally 'un-American' 
or 'Communistic.' " 

"That's absurd. Russia is in even 
a tighter straitjacket than we are," 
Bryson objected, "if that's any con- 
solation." 

"What difference has that ever 
made? But I'm not finished. The 
critics would complete the massa- 
cre with charges of 'decadence,' 
'slovenly writing,' 'corrupting the 
language,' 'defiling the pure springs 
of American speech and literature,' 
etc., etc., etc. At their head would 
be Joshua Duncan." 

Gregg winced at his own sugges- 
tion. 

"I've had him on my back a few 
times before and, I'm sorry to say, 
come out of it glad to cling to my 
job and my scalp." 

Bryson made a grimace of dis- 
taste, 

"Duncan! That big bag of super- 
fluous remarks!" 

"Perhaps," Gregg shrugged, "but 
he wields an inordinate amount of 
power — and a deadly typewriter. At 
the Chinese Torture of a Thousand 



Cuts or relatively painless decapita- 
tion, he is unrivaled. And I'm not 
sure that some of the things he may 
say will not be justified." 
"Such as?" 

"That the neologisms and new 

phrases are, on the whole, obviously 

contrived, artificial, and unlikely." 

Bryson's spirits seemed slightly 

dampened. 

"That's right, I supose. How can 
one invent a new, vital language? 
That has to grow out of the life of 
a people; it comes spontaneously 
under the influence of a strong, new 
impulse. And yet, what can one do 
when one wishes to represent such 
a situation?" 

"Fail, Duncan will say. And that 
you should never have tried." 

"Duncan is a fool " Bryson said 
gloomily. "And yet if it weren't he, 
it would be someone else. The age 
called out for a literary dictator and 
Duncan answered, as Samuel John- 
son did in his. Outside of the fact 
that Johnson had some creative 
power and Duncan has none, 
there's an amazing resemblance be- 
tween the two. Oh, Duncan has 
some merits; he can recognize 
what's good within certain narrow 
limits and encourage it. But out- 
side of that, he's blind and vindic- 
tive. He stands for everything that's 
responsible for the death of our 
world and our language — the nar- 
rowness, the restrictions, the ossi- 
fication, the insensitivity, the — " 



THE STREET wailed, a jnount- 
ing, soul-piercing shriek that 
echoed between the city cliffs and 
screamed terror to the winds. The 
streams of humanity froze, arid in 



76 



JAMES E. GUNN 



the next moment distinctions of 
person and class were forgotten. 
With one mind, the crowd turned 
and began running, threading 
around or vaulting the cars and 
busses pulled up in the middle of 
the street, whose occupants had 
poured out to join the rest. Like 
sands hi an hourglass, the fractions 
of humanity poured slowly through 
the constricting necks of openings 
into the earth. 

"This way," Gregg shouted. 
"The nearest subway is just down 
the block." 

They ran, battling against the 
pushers and shovers on either side. 
Squeezed in finally, they were un- 
able to help their own progress any 
more but permitted themselves to 
be carried along, concentrating only 
on keeping their feet — a difficult 
process when the grains began to 
flow down the steps. Down-— down 
■ — down — past the subway levels 
and down again. At last they were 
released in a huge concrete room, 
broken by large pillars and scatter- 
ed benches. 

Gregg and Bryson pulled at their 
disarranged suits, whose untorn 
condition was a proof of the quality 
of class two and three tailoring. 
Some of the others who now began 
to fill the room were not so fortu- 
nate; here a sleeve was missing; 
there a man was naked to the waist, 
his shirt hanging in shreds. 

Slowly the trickle into the room 
diminished and stopped; armed 
guards appeared at the doors. The 
mob began to mill around, gadicr- 
ing into groups here and there until 
Gregg and Bryson were isolated. 

"We seem to be alone," Bryson 
said drily. 



It was true. They were the only 
class twos and threes in the room. 
Everywhere else knots of men and 
women talked and gestured in com- 
radely, even venturing an occasion- 
al short, barking laugh ; but the 
space around them was as clearly 
defined as it had been on the street. 

Bryson glanced around the 
crowded room. 

"A symbol of the age," he said. 
"We're in what Matthew Arnold 
called an epoch of concentration, 
like England in the 1790's, produc- 
ed by what he called the hostile, 
forcible pressure of foreign ideas. 
We call it a cold war." 

"Cold!" exclaimed Gregg, look- 
ing around the bomb shelter. 

"Every epoch of concentration, 
Arnold said, is followed by an epoch 
of expansion. But I wonder how 
long an epoch of concentration can 
last without inflicting permanent 
damage. Ours has lasted twenty 
years. A little longer and we may 
not be able to recover." 

"We're no nearer a solution than 
we were twenty years ago," Gregg 
said moodily. 

"I know. There seems to be no 
hope of a diplomatic settlement of 
the cold war, or of Russia's being 
weakened by internal dissension. 
But if a new frontier opened. . . 
Look at England's Elizabethan Age 
if you want to see what an epoch 
of expansion looks like." 

"What do you mean?" 

"The defeat of the Spanish Ar- 
mada and the great explorations 
and discoveries opened up vast new 
territories. As a consequence, the 
Elizabethan was the lustiest, most 
fully alive age of English literature. 
It was full of the joy of living; new 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



77 



words were being absorbed into the 
language by the thousands; the per- 
iod was receptive to all sorts of in- 
fluences. And then, as England be- 
gan to age and harden, America 
became the center of vigor. A 
frontier, that seemed as if it would 
last forever, eternally renewed the 
language and kept it alive. But the 
frontiers are gone, and we are both 
dying and the language with us, 
and there is nowhere else to look." 

There was silence bteween them 
for a moment. Gregg began to fid- 
get and pull at his collar. 

"It's stifling in here," he com- 
plained. 

The large screen at the end of 
the room came alive, and the air of 
tension that had begun to grow 
throughout the crowd subsided. 
The screen imaged the blue sky 
puffed with clouds. There were 
white trails in the blue, circling and 
climbing. 

"Interceptors," Gregg muttered. 
"For what?" 

In the depths of the blue there 
was a glint that sparkled and was 
gone. And the glint came again 
and was steady. 

"God !" breathed Gregg. "The 
interceptors are invisible. That 
must be big!" 

The glint came nearer and was 
a silver dot that poured forth a 
long, white tail. And the screen 
went blank. 

'This telecast," the voice from 
the speaker said, "is interrupted for 
security reasons. There is no cause 
for alarm at this time, but the all- 
clear will be withheld until the mili- 
tary authorities have had time to 
make a final check." 

The screen came back on with 



a light, airy movie — a pastoral in- 
terlude with songs and dances and 
gay chatter. The worries were 
minute, the problems simple, the 
atmosphere joyous. It was the la- 
test rage. It was, however, not com- 
pletely successful. The tension be- 
gan to grow again, until it became 
almost tangible. Conversations 
ceased or became monosyllabic. 
Laughter was cut off short. 

The crowd swayed a little toward 
the entrance, 

"Remain where you are," a 
speaker warned, "until the sounding 
of the all-clear." 

The crowd swayed back, hesi- 
tated for a moment, and surged 
again toward the door. A guard 
turned and pressed a button near 
the entrance. A steel door slid 
across the opening. The guards un- 
buttoned their holster flaps. 



A SIGH went up from the crowd, 
and it sagged to its former posi- 
tion. A slow, uneasy murmur began 
to grow. A class-nine laborer tore 
at the collar of his gray working- 
clothes and ripped it open, breath- 
ing harshly. 

"Don*t you think the air's getting 
bad in here?" Gregg asked, his face 
getting white. He pulled down his 
tie and unloosed his collar. 

"Surely not," Bryson said cheer- 
fully. "The place is well ven- 
tilated." 

Minutes passed. The free space 
around them began to grow smaller 
and less sharply defined. Some- 
where a woman fainted and a child 
began to wail. The sanitary facili- 
ties were kept busy; lines formed at 
the drinking fountains. 



78 



JAMES E. GUNN 



Gregg's face began to twist as his 
breath came quickly. 

"God," he muttered. "Oh, God!" 

Finally the "speaker cleared its 
throat. 

"The Airport Authority has just 
announced that the object which 
caused the initial alarm has landed 
at an undisclosed airport near the 
city. The object was a manned 
rocket constructed by the Depart- 
ment of Defense. It has just re- 
turned from the moon. The all-clear 
will be sounded immediately; you 
may all return to your normal ac- 
tivities." 

The last few words were lost in 
the cheers and swelling conversa- 
tional hubbub that greeted the an- 
nouncement. Gregg and Bryson 
looked at each other with lifted eye- 
brows. Bryson nodded, and they 
made their way toward the now- 
open door, the all-clear wailing be- 
hind them. 

They emerged, blinking, into the 
sunlight. 

"There's your new frontier," 
Gregg said. 

"Maybe," Bryson said noncomit- 
tally. "Or maybe it's the last stitch 
in the straitjacket. Depending on 
how it's used." 

"You mean if it's exploited solely 
for military purposes." 

Bryson nodded. 

"And presented to the public as 
military in nature. Docs the moon- 
gate open out to freedom or in to 
hell? It all depends." 

Gregg came to a halt in front of 
a door-lock. 

"Here we are." 

Bryson looked up and saw the 
word "Tony's" printed across the 
blackened windows in what must be 



luminescent paint. Gregg fidgeted 
beside him. 

"Go ahead," Bryson motioned 
with a smile. 'T won't put you 
through that twice." 

With a muttered thanks, Gregg 
disappeared through the door. Af- 
ter a moment, Bryson followed him. 
When he came out inside, he was 
chuckling. 

"That clerk — " he began. 

"Look!" interrupted Gregg, mo- 
tioning. "The great man himself." 

At a rear booth of the dimly lit, 
sedately luxurious bar, Bryson saw 
a large, ugly, fat man surrounded 
by a group of eagerly listening ad- 
mirers. The man's booming voice 
carried easily to where they stood. 

"As a writer, Saundcrson is a 
stink in the nostrils of the American 
public; as a philosopher, he is an 
abomination in the eyes of God." 

Bryson screwed up his face and 
glanced at Gregg. 

"So that is Duncan!** 

"In his full glory." 

"Ah there, Gregg," the voice 
rolled out. "Still publishing those 
sections of tripe you call short 
stories." 

Gregg winced. 

"Come back," Duncan bellowed. 
"I have someone here I want you 
to meet. You may bring your half- 
witted friend with you." 

Bryson flushed, but Gregg shrug- 
ged his shoulders and strolled to the 
rear. 

"Here," said Duncan when they 
arrived, indicating a dark, nonde- 
script young man, "is a dull-witted 
fellow who writes the sort of swill 
you prefer. He'd like to show you 
a story." 

Gregg lifted a thin, dark eye- 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



79 



brow at the unsmiling young man. 

"Tomorrow morning — at ten?" 

The young man nodded. 

"And now," said Duncan, turn- 
ing away from them, "begone! I 
am already beginning to feci taint- 
ed. And take your half-witted 
friend with you. He has been made 
happy enough for one day." 

Bryson leaned forward across the 
table. 

"You, sir, are as insulting as you 
arc ugly and as stupidly narrow as 
you arc fat. You are a stink in the 
nostrils of the American public and 
an abomination in the eyes of God." 

Duncan turned back. 

"Ah, a lad with spirit," he said 
coolly. "I like a lad with spirit." 
And then his voice grew icy. "But 
puerile, juvenile, and unoriginal. 
Take him away, Gregg, until he 
ripens." 

Gregg tugged at his coat-tails, 
and Bryson permitted himself to be 
led from the table. 

"Why do you stand for that?" he 
demanded, fuming, when they had 
found a booth and pressed quickly 
for a drink. 

"Because I can't help myself." 

"You surely aren't going to see 
that sullen fellow he urged on you." 

"Oh, yes," Gregg shrugged. "And 
I'll buy his story, I imagine. Dun- 
can's pretty shrewd. It probably is 
the sort of swill I prefer." 

"If I were in your shoes, I'd do 
something about it," Bryson said 
bitterly. 

Gregg smiled humorlcssly. 

"Let me tell you about someone 
who did. He was an editor — told 
Duncan off, too — in public and in 

Erint. So every chance Joshua got, 
e slipped in a sly remark about the 



editor until you had only to men- 
tion his name in almost any gather- 
ing to get a laugh and have some- 
one repeat Duncan's latest witti- 
cism. He was laughed out of town. 
He's now hacking out fiction, and 
the only way he can sell it is under 
a pseudonym." 

"What this country needs," Bry- 
son muttered, "is another Mencken 
who could stand up to him and 
trade blow for blow for freedom. 
Someone who could beat him at his 
own game." 



THEY SAT huddled over their 
drinks for several minutes, 
thinking their thoughts in silence, 
until an uproar at the door-lock 
brought them out of their reveries. 
One of the bartenders was engaged 
in a violent argument with a small, 
sunburned man in an uncertain as- 
sortment of garments which were 
incapable of classification. Behind 
him, a medley of men of all classes, 
from four down to ten, were emerg- 
ing from the lock. 

"I'm very sorry," said the bar- 
tender, sounding not the least sor- 
ry as he barred the way, his arms 
folded across his chest. "This bar 
is reserved for class-three patrons 
and above." 

"Out of my way, Earthbound," 
the bantam said imperiously in a 
surprising baritone voice, and then 
he burst out with irrepressible exu- 
berance. "I've reached E.V., and 
I'm almost spaccbound. Today's 
my day, and I'm blowing all my 
jets. Don't try to tie me down; I'm 
space dust. I'm free as a comet's 
tail and twice as hard to take hold 
of. Make way, Obsolete, or I'll tic 



80 



JAMES E. GUNN 



a rocket to your tail and ride you 
bareback to Venus." 

By sheer volume and vigor and 
by the weight of numbers behind 
him, the cocky little fellow 
pushed his way past the stunned 
bartender, who stood staring after 
him with his mouth hanging half- 
way open. The intruder, who could 
not have stood over five feet three 
or four, pounded vigorously on the 
bar with his clenched fist. 

"A bulb and a straw," he shout- 
ed. "Straight bourbon." 

There was a chorus of seconds 
from his worshipping followers, 
some of whom seemed just a little 
uneasy in the surroundings. Not so 
the bantam. 

"Whoo-ee!" he yelled, after 
downing his drink. "Throw me a 
line — I'm floating." 

Gregg and Bryson exchanged 
glances. 

"There's your new language," 
Gregg grimaced. 

"Vulgar!" Bryson exclaimed with 
admiration. "Vulgar as hell!" 

The crowd around the bantam 
increased. Gregg watched in 
amazement as even class twos and 
threes began to join the group in 
friendly non-distinction. 

"Maybe this is it," Bryson said. 
"Maybe the pressure from within 
has burst through the walls. The 
influences of concentration will try 
to push it back into the mold, but 
if the force is strong enough, may- 
be it will completely shatter the 
walls and scatter the pieces from 
here to the moon. It's a beginning, 
anyway. Maybe even the cold war 
won't be able to stand up to it when 
the word gets out that the United 
States has broken the chains of 



Earth, has opened the way to the 
stars." 

He pulled out a pen and a piece 
of paper and began to scribble 
madly. 

A familiar voice bellowed from 
a back booth. 

"The atmosphere in here has be- 
come fouled with the stench of the 
masses. Sweep the garbage out!" 

No one moved. The bartenders 
stared toward Duncan helplessly. 

"Oh-oh!" muttered Bryson. "The 
restraining influence begins. Can 
the new force withstand it?" 

"Either the rabble goes," Duncan 
rumbled, as if there were no doubt 
of the final choice, "or I go." 

One of the bartenders, glancing 
cautiously toward the group at the 
bar, lifted a phone, dialed and 
spoke briefly into the receiver. 

"Float a bulb to the overstuffed 
groundhog in the back booth," said 
the bantam cheerfully. "He can't 
help it if he's planet-bound." 

Duncan got up ponderously and 
stalked, glowering toward the bar. 
He pushed his way through the 
throng until he stood towering 
above the little intruder. 

"Mite on the back of culture!" 
he thundered. "Flea in the fur of 
the world-bitch! You and your 
trained chimpanzees arc unwelcome 
here. We want none of your tricks 
and even less of your vulgar, mean- 
ingless monkey chatter. Go and an- 
noy someone else, vacuum brain!" 

The bantam pressed himself for- 
ward against Duncan's overhanging 
belly and stared defiantly up at the 
jowled, furious face. 

"Dampen them, Overload. If 
you were my cargo, you'd be jetti- 
soned before anything else. You 



A WORD FOR FREEDOM 



81 



haven't got the jayvee to lift that 
overage hull off the ground. Your 
jets are eaten out; one more blast 
and you'll blow off your stern. You 
think you're in a tight orbit because 
you're eating your own exhaust, but 
you were born six feet under and 
never dug yourself out." 

Step by step, Duncan backed 
toward the front as the bantam fol- 
lowed, keeping him off balance with 
his light word-jabs. Finally Duncan 
stood bewildered, against the door- 
lock. 

"Bah!" he muttered. "I won't 
trade insults with a vulgar bar- 
barian." 

He turned and fled through the 
door. The room exploded with 
laughter. 

"Whoo-ce!" shouted the victor- 
ious bantam. "I'm a cosmic ray. 
You can't keep me out and you 
can't keep me in. All you know is 
that I've passed when you count the 
atoms I've split." 

When Gregg ceased shaking, he 
wiped his eyes. 

"Oh, Duncan will never live this 
down. Beaten by a flyweight who 
wouldn't know a verbal from a 
vocative." 

The place suddenly grew quiet as 
two officers of the security patrol 
stood in the door. The bartender 
hurried to them and pointed toward 
the little intruder and his friends, 
but the officers shook their heads 



and continued to search the room. 
Then one stopped and nodded 
toward the side of the room where 
Bryson and Gregg were sitting. 
They strode determinably forward, 
skirting the tables. 

"All right, Bryson," one of them 
said. "Come with us." 

"Me? 1 ' Bryson said. 

"You've got a little business to 
settle with the security office." 

Bryson got up slowly. 

"Just a millisecond," said the 
bantam, bursting between them. 
"Let's not break up the party, 
Groundcrcw." 

Bryson patted the little fellow on 
the shoulder. 

"That's all right, hero. You've 
done enough for one day." 

"Come on, Bryson," said one of 
the officers, wearily. "Let's get that 
card fixed up. One of the clerks 
had hysterics, right in the middle 
of the main control room, just be- 
cause of you." 

Bryson laughed and started across 
the floor with them. 

"I'll send Miss Haines down to 
vouch for you," Gregg called after 
him. "And Bryson," he shouted 
with sudden decision, "fix up the 
neologisms and put Duncan in it, 
and I'll buy that story." 

Bryson chortled, leaped in the 
air, and flapped his arms. 

"Whoo-ee !" he shouted. "I'm 
floating." ... THE END 



The Big News: iff 



Is Monthly 



Yes, beginning with the March issue, you'll be able to buy your 
favorite science fiction magazine each and every month! And 
you won't want to miss an issue — they'll all be tops! 



The barn turned out to be a spaceship in disguise, aM. 
that was only the beginning. Before his strange adven- 
ture ended, young Paul Asher found himself going 
around in circles — very peculiar circles indeed! 



DOUBLE TAKE 

By Richard Wilson 



Illustrated by Paul Orban 



PAUL ASHER, 27, men's furn- 
ishings buyer, leaned back and 
let the cloth band be fastened across 
his chest, just under his armpits. He 
adjusted his heavy spectacles, closed 
his eyes for a moment, breathed 
deeply, and ivas off. 

The semi-darkness was dispelled 
as he shot out of a tunnel into daz- 
zling sunlight. The high-powered 
vehicle he was driving purred 
smoothly as it took the long, rising 
curve. The road climbed steadily 
toward the mountaintop city ahead. 
He looked around to satisfy himself 
that he was alone in the car. 

He wasn't. 

The girl was a pretty one. He'd 
seen her somewhere before, he 
thought. She was looking insolently 
at him, her wide red mouth in a 
half smile. Her dark hair stirred in 
the breeze coming through the win- 
dow, next to her, which was open 
just a slit. 



She said: "J ust keep g°i n g> 
Sweetheart, as fast as you can." 
And she patted the oversized 
pocketbook that lay in her lap. 

He pressed down on the accelera- 
tor and the car responded with a 
flow of power. The countryside fell 
away from the road on either side. 
Far below he could see a river, 
winding broadly to the far-off sea. 
The summer day sent its heat- 
shimmers across the miniature land- 
scape. 

The road curved again. Theirs 
was the only car he had seen since 
he'd come out of the tunnel. But 
now, far ahead, he saw another. It 
was standing at the side of the road, 
next to a gate that came down in 
the manner of one at a railroad 
crossing. But he knew by its black 
and white diagonals and by the lit- 
tle sentry hut half hidden behind 
the other car that it marked the 
frontier. A man with a rifle on his 



83 



84 



RICHARD WILSON 



ihouldcr stood there. They drew 
up to it fast, but his foot automa- 
tically eased up on the floorboard 
pedal until the -girl spoke sharply. 

"Right through it, Sweetheart." 

In the rcarview mirror he saw 
her leaning forward, her face tense. 

In a moment it would be time to 
stop, if he were going to. 

Paul Asker hesitated a moment. 
Then he too leaned forward, the 
band pressing into his chest. He 
was breathing heavily. There was 
an almost inaudible click. 

He trod on the accelerator. He 
had a glimpse of the guard unsling- 
ing his rifle from his shoulder and 
of another man running toward the 
parked car as his vehicle smashed 
into the flimsy gate and sent it, 
cracked and splintered, to the side 
of the road. He fought the slight 
wrench of the wheel and sped on. 
He thought he heard a shot. 

"Nice work," the girl said. She 
seemed to be appraising him as she 
looked at him. "My name, inci- 
dentally, is Naomi." 

"Hello," he heard himself saying 
as he whipped the car around a 
curve that hid the frontier behind 
a hill. "You seem to know who I 
am." 

"That I do." she said. 

"Then why don't you call me by 
my name, instead of 'Sweetheart'?" 

"That's because I like you, 
Sweetheart." She was looking out 
(he rear window. "Now just step 
on the gas, because we've got com- 
pany." 

The car that had been parked 
near the sentry hut was whipping 
Into view around the curve. It was 
lighter than his, but it was fast, too. 
He stepped on it. 



NOW THE ROAD had become 
narrow and twisting. The 
grade was steep but the surface was 
good. Abruptly, it entered a forest. 

The girl said : "Two more curves. 
Then you'll see a field and a barn. 
Off the road and into the barn, 
fast" 

He took the curves with rubber 
screaming and almost without brak- 
ing sent the car bumping across the 
field and into the barn. It was 
bigger than it had seemed from the 
outside. As he brought the car to 
a lurching halt the barn door closed. 

Where he had expected to see 
stalls and milking machines and hay 
he saw an expanse of metal floor 
and monstrous machinery. The 
barn door which had been a rickety 
wooden slab from the outside was 
a gleaming sheet of metal from the 
inside. It glided silently shut and 
left no joint or seam to show where 
there had been an opening. 

"Out," said Naomi. 

As they left the car, a flexible 
metal arm snaked from one of the 
smooth walls, attached itself to the 
front bumper of the vehicle, and 
whisked it into a cubicle which 
opened to receive it and closed be- 
hind it. 

A power-driven wheelchair sped 
up to than. Sitting in it was a fat 
man of middle age, with pendulous 
jowls and a totally bald head. His 
expression was a sardonic scowl. 

"You have the plans?" he asked 
the girl. 

"Sweetheart here has them." 

"I don't know what you're talk- 
ing about," the young man said. 

"He knows, all right," the girl 
said. "He pretends to be innocent, 
but that is merely his training. He 



DOUBLE TAKE 



85 



has them under a sticking plaster 
on the small of his back." 

"Remove your coat and shirt," 
commanded the man in the wheel- 
chair. 

At that moment the floor shud- 
dered under their feet, n gong be- 
gan to clang insistently, and the 
giant machinery, which had been 
silent, throbbed into life. 

The man in the wheelchair 
whirled and was off, shouting com- 
mands to men who materialized 
high on the walls in cylindrical tur- 
rets which the visitor could only 
think of as battle stations. 

"What is this place?" he asked. 

He got no answer. Instead the 
girl grabbed his arm and pulled 
him off to the edge of the gigantic 
metal room. An opening appeared 
in the wall and she pushed him 
through it into a room beyond. The 
cntranccway snapped shut behind 
them and when he looked he could 
see no door. The room also was 
windowless. 

Naomi went to a metal table and 
as she looked down into its surface 
it became a screen. Mirrored in it 
was the mountainous countryside 
they had driven through to get to 
the barn — or what had seemed to 
be a barn from the outside. He 
looked over her shoulder. 

They saw as from a height. There 
was the light car that had chased 
them from the frontier. Standing 
near it was a man in an officer's 
uniform and another in civilian 
clothes. They were talking and 
gesturing. Beside the car was a 
tank. As they watched, its gun fired 
and the structure they were in 
shuddered, but they heard no 
sound. 



Lumbering up the mountain road 
were more tanks and a self-propel- 
led gun. One of the tanks became 
enveloped in smoke and flames as 
they watched. After a moment the 
smoke cleared. The tank was gone; 
where it had been there was a deep 
crater. 

Gradually, the figures in the 
drama below grew smaller. At the 
same time the vista widened, so 
that they saw more and more 
countryside. It twisted beneath 
them and the horizon came giddily 
into view. A few moments later 
the curvature of the earth could be 
plainly seen. 

Everything fitted together at 
once. Some of the things, anyway. 

"We're in a ship," he said. "Some 
kind of rocket-ship." 

"It's a planet plane," the girl 
said. "We're safe now." 

"Safe from what ?" he asked . 
"What's this all about?" 

She smiled enigmatically. "Ha- 
fitz could tell you, if he chose. Hc*s 
the boss." 

"The man in the wheelchair?" 

She nodded and took out a corn- 
pact. As she added lipstick to her 
mouth, she looked him over, be- 
tween glances in her mirror. 

"You don't look like the spy type. 
If there is a type." 

"I'm not a spy. I don't know 
what you're talking about." 

"The innocent! Go on, take off 
your coat and shirt. We'll save 
Hafitz some time." 

"I'll be glad to, just to prove this 
is all ridiculous. A case of mistaken 
identity. You've made a mistake, 
that's what you've done." 

He stood there, hesitating. 

The girl gave a burst of laughter. 



86 



RICHARD WILSON 



Then she said: "AH right, Swect- 
b< " ' I'll turn my back." 

She did, and he pulled his shirt 
out of his trousers. Then he froze. 
Taped to the skin of his back was 
a ilat package. 

Paul Asher made the decision. He 
bent forward, feeling perspiration 
in the palms of his hands. There 
was a faint click. 



QUICKLY he ripped the ad- 
hesive from his back. There 
was an instant of pain as the plas- 
ter came free. He wadded up the 
sticky package, dropped it to the 
floor and kicked it under the desk. 

Then he took off his coat, tie 
and shirt. 

"You can turn around now," he 
said. 

"A more modest spy I've never 
seen. Okay," she said, "now you 
turn around." 

"As you see," he said, "there are 
no plans — no papers." 

"No — not now. But there is a 
red mark on your back. What is 
it?" 

"Oh," he said. "Oh — that's a 
birthmark" 

She spun him around to face her. 
Her face was harsh. She slapped 
his cheek. "Where is the sticking 
plaster? Don't trifle with me." 

Her eyes bored into his. He re- 
turned the gaze, then shrugged. 

"Under the desk," he said, "I 
tore it off and kicked it under the 
desk." 

"You are sensible to confess," she 
said. 

She bent down, unwisely. 

Paul Asher felt the familiar 
tightening in his chest as he leaned 



forward. The click was barely 
heard. 

He raised his hand and brought 
the edge of it down hard on the 
back of her neck. 

She crumpled and fell to the 
metal floor. He noticed that a smear 
of her freshly-applied lipstick came 
off on it. 

He pushed the unconscious body 
aside and fished the packet out 
from under the desk. He searched 
the room for another hiding place. 

But it was too late. A section of 
wall opened and Hafitz, the fat man 
in the wheelchair, sped in. 

He wheeled past the young man, 
looked briefly at the unconscious 
girl, then whisked himself around. 

"You will pay for this, my 
friend," he said. "But first we will 
have the plans for the way-station. 
Where are they?" 

"I don't know anything about 
any plans and I don't know any- 
thing about a way-station. I tried 
to tell the girl: it's all a crazy mis- 
take." 

"We will see," said Hafitz. He 
pressed a button on the arm of his 
wheelchair and two bruisers ap- 
peared through the walls, in the 
abrupt way people had of material- 
izing here. Bruisers was the only 
way they could -be described. They 
were human brutes, all muscle and 
malevolence. 

"Take them," said Hafitz, indi- 
cating the unconscious girl and the 
young man. "Take them and search 
them for a small packet. If you do 
not find it, search this room. If you 
do not find it still, hurt the male 
animal. They persuade well with 
pain here, I understand. But do 
not kill him. I will be in the com- 



DOUBLE TAKE 



87 



mumcations room. 

He sped off, through a wall open- 
ing. 

One of the bruisers picked up the 
girl, roughly, and disappeared with 
her. The other grabbed the young 
man and hauled him off in a third 
direction. The young man hastily 
snatched up his coat, shirt and tie 
en route. 

They ended up in a cell of a 
room, about seven feet in all di- 
rections, in which the bruiser 
stripped him, methodically went 
through each piece of cloth- 
ing, and then satisfied himself that 
he didn't have the packet anywhere 
on his body. 

The muscle-man then raised a 
fist. 

"Wait," his prospective victim 
said. He thought back quickly. 
"Hafitz didn't say you could bat me 
around till you searched the room, 
too." 

The other spoke for the first time. 
"You say the truth." He put his 
arm down. 

The young man watched intently 
as the bruiser went through the wall 
of the cell-like room. 

He dressed fast. By placing his 
fingers in exactly the same position 
as the other had done, was able to 
make the wall open for him. 

The silver-metal corridor had 
two directions. He went to the right. 
After many turnings, at each of 
which he reconnoitered carefully, 
he came to a passageway that was 
damp. Why it was damp he could- 
n't tell, but there in the wetness 
were tracks which could have been 
made by a wheelchair. 

He followed them, feeling the 
throb of giant engines underfoot. 



THE WHEELCHAIR tracks 
abruptly made a ninety-degree 
turn and ended at a blank wall. 
Somewhere beyond it must be the 
communications room. 

He retreated and waited. 

In time the wall snapped open 
and Hafitz sped out. The young 
man retreated into the maze of cor- 
ridors and hoped chance would be 
on his side. It was. Hafitz went an- 
other way. 

The young man ran back to the 
wall and used his fingers on it in 
the combination he had learned. It 
opened for him. 

He closed it behind him and 
blinked at the huge instrument 
panel which filled almost the entire 
room. 

One of the instruments was a 
color vision screen, tuned in to a 
100m in which there was a maho- 
gany desk, at which was seated a 
man in uniform. Behind him was 
a map of the United States. 

The man in uniform was a major 
general in the Air Force. An aide, 
a lieutenant colonel, was leaning 
over the desk. He had a sheaf of 
papers in his hand. The men's con- 
versation was audible. 

"Messages have been coming in 
from all over Europe," the colonel 
was saying. "Here's the way it re- 
constructs : 

"Our agent was en route to the 
rendezvous when he was intercept- 
ed by Naomi. That's the only name 
we have for her. She's a spy. She*s 
worked for half a dozen countries 
and her present employer could be 
any one of them. They were spot- 
ted as they crossed the frontier be- 
tween Italy and France. Their car 
went into a barn and we thought 



88 



RICHARD WILSON 



wc had them. But the barn turned 
out to be a spaceship in disguise. It 
took off." 

So Vm their agent, Paul Asher 
thought. So that's what it's all 
about. I'm a secret agent for the 
United States, but they didn't tell 
me anything about it. This is real 
George, this is . . . He expected to 
hear a faint click and leaned for- 
ward experimentally, but nothing 
happened. He leaned backward. 
Still nothing. 

The colonel was answering a 
question from the general. "We 
don't know who they are, Sir. They- 
're not from Earth, obviously. And 
the best scientific minds go still 
further — they're not even from our 
solar system. Whoever they are, it's 
clear that they don't want us to 
build a way-station in space." 

"Those spaceships started buz- 
zing around right after our first 
Moon trip," the general said. "This 
is the first time they've become 
really troublesome — now that we've 
got the Moon under control and are 
ready to build the way-station so 
we can get to Mars." 

"That's right, Sir," said the 
colonel. 

"Progress is a wonderful thing," 
said the general. "Things certainly 
have changed since those early days 
of strategic atomic bombing and 
guided missile experiments." 

"Yes, Sir," said the colonel. 

The young man in the communi- 
cations room of the spaceship let 
his attention wander away from the 
scene back on Earth and experi- 
mented with some of the switches 
and controls. Trial and error led 
him to "tie which lit up a signal on 
the desk of the general. 



The general flicked it on. 

"Yes?" he said. He looked puz- 
zled when he got no picture, just a 
voice saying, "Hello, hello." 

"Yes?" he said. "Hello. Speak 
up, man." 

"This is your agent aboard the 
enemy spaceship," said the young 
man. "Do you read me?" 

"Yes," said the general. "We 
read you. Go ahead." 

"I may not have much time. Get 
a fix on me if you can. And send 
help." 

"What's your position?" the gen- 
eral was reacting well. He was alert 
and all business. 

"I don't know. I've been taken 
prisoner, but I'm temporarily free. 
There isn't much time. Hafitz is 
bound to be back soon. He seems 
to be the brains of this outfit — this 
part of the outfit, anyway. Naomi 
is here, too, but I don't know 
whether she's with them or against ^ 
them." 

"Where are the plans, son?" 
asked the general. 

"They're safe, for the moment. I 
can't guarantee for how long." 

"I'm getting the fix," the colonel 
said. He was beyond the range of 
the young man's vision screen. "I've 
got him. He's still within range, 
but accelerating fast. We can inter- 
cept if we get up a rocket soon 
enough." 

"Get it up," ordered the general. 
"Get up a squadron. Scramble the 
Moon patrol and send out reserves 
from Earth at once." 

"Right!" said the colonel. 

The young man was so engrossed 
in the makings of his rescue party 
that he didn't see the wall open up 
behind him. 



DOUBLE TAKE 



89 



There was a squeak of rubber 
tires and he whirled to see Hafitz, 
in his wheelchair, slamming toward 
him. The fat man's hand held a 
weird-looking gun. 

The young man recoiled. His 
back pushed against a row of con- 
trol buttons. 

Then everything went white. 



PAUL ASHER blinked his eyes, 
like a man awakening from a 
vivid dream. 

The house lights went on and the 
manager of the theater came on the 
stage. He stood in front of the 
blank master screen with its check- 
erboard pattern of smaller screens, 
on which the several lines of action 
had taken place simultaneously. 
Paul took off his sclectorscope spec- 
tacles with the earphone attach- 
ments. 

"Ladies and gentlemen," the 
manager said. "I regret very much 
having to announce that this vicar- 
ion of the production Spies from 
Space, was defective. The multi- 
film has broken and, because of the 
complexity of the vikie process, it 
will be impossible to splice it with- 
out returning it to the laboratory. 

"Ushers are at the exits with 
passes good for any future perform- 
ance. Those of you who prefer can 
exchange them at the box office 
for a full refund of your admission 
price." 

Paul Asher unstrapped the wir- 
ed canvas band from across his 
chest. He put the sclectorscope 
spectacles into the pouch on the 
arm of the seat and walked out of 
the R.K..O. Vicarion into High 
Street and around the corner to 



where his car was parked. 

His roommate at the communapt, 
MacCloy, was still up when he got 
there, going over some projectos. 
Mac snapped off the screen and 
quickly swept the slides together 
and into a case. 

"You're back early," MacCloy 
said. 

"The multifilm broke," Paul 
told him. 

"Oh." Mac seemed abstracted, as 
he often did, and again Paul won- 
dered about this man he knew so 
casually and who had never con- 
fided in him about anything — cs- 
specially about his government job. 

"So I missed the ending," Paul 
said. "I guess it was near the end, 
anyhow. The space patrol was on 
the way, but the villain, that Hafitz, 
was just about to blast me with his 
gun and I don't know how I would 
have got out of that." 

"f remember that," Mac said. He 
laughed. "You must have been 
Positive all the way through. Like 
I was when I saw it. If you'd had 
any negative reactions — if you'd 
leaned back against the strap in- 
stead of forward— you'd have been 
at some other point in the multi- 
plot and I wouldn't have recogniz- 
ed that part. Want me to tell you 
how it ends?" 

"Go ahead. Then if I do see it 
again I'll change the ending some- 
where along the line with a lean- 
back." 

"Okay. There really wasn't 
much more. It takes so much film 
to provide all the plot choices that 
they can't make them very long. 

"Well, Hafitz blasts me and 
misses," Mac went on, " — or blasts 
you and misses, to keep it in your 



90 



RICHARD WILSON' 



viewpoint. When you jump back, 
you set off a bunch of controls. 
That was the control room, too, 
not just the communications room. 
Well, those controls you lean back 
against take the ship out of auto- 
matic pilot and send it into some 
wild acrobatics and that's why Ha- 
fitz misses. Also it knocks him out 
of the wheelchair so he's helpless 
and you get his gun. Also you sec 
that the plans are still there — right 
where you put them, stuck to the 
bottom of his wheelchair.*' 

"So that was it." said Paul. 

"Yes," said Mac. "And then you 
cover Unfit/ while he straightens 
out the ship and you rendczcous 
with the space control and they take 
you all into custody. You get a ci- 
tation from the government. That's 
about it. Corny, huh?" 

"But what about the girl?" Paul 
asked. "Is she really a spy?" 

"Girl? What girl?" 

"Naomi, her name was," Paul 
said. "You couldn't miss her. She 
was in the vikic right at the be- 
ginning — that brunette in the fast 
car." 

"But there wasn't any girl, Paul," 
Mac insisted. "Not when I saw it." 

"Of course there was. There had 
to be — the vikies all start out the 
same way, no matter who sees 
them." 

"It beats me, pal. I know 1 didn't 
see her. Maybe you dreamed up 
the dame." 

"I don't think so," Paul said. 
"But of course it's possible." He 
yawned. "I wouldn't mind dream- 
ing of her tonight, at that. Think 
I'll turn in now, Mac. I've got that 
long trip tomorrow, you know. Up 
to Canada to look over a new line 



of Marswool sport jackets at the 
All- Planets Showroom." 

"Driving or flying?" 

"The weather prognosis is zero- 
zero. I'll drive." 

"Good," said Mac. 



PAUL ASHER woke up late. He 
had a confused recollection of 
a dream. Something about a beau- 
tiful brunette giving him a backrub. 

A look at the chrono sent the 
dream out of his head and he hur- 
ried through shaving and dressing. 

His car was waiting for him, en- 
gine idling, at the curb. He got in, 
tossing his briefcase and topcoat 
ahead of him to the far side of the 
front seat. His back began to itt.li, 
insistently, and he rubbed it against 
the leather upholstery. 

Paul adjusted the safety belt 
around him, and fastened it. Might 
as well do it now, instead of hav-^ 
ing to fool around with it laterf 
Damn that itch, anyway! It was as 
if something were stuck to his skin 
— like a sticking plaster. . . 

The high-powered vehicle purred 
smoothly as it took a long, rising 
curve. The road climbed steadily 
toward the mountaintop city ahead. 

The scene was familiar. 

The itching of his back spread 
and became a prickly feeling in the 
small hairs at the nape of his neck. 

He knew now that he was not 
alone in the car. He looked in the 
rear-view mirror. 

Naomi. 

She was looking at him insolently, 
her wide red mouth in a half smile. 

She said: "Just keep going, 
Sweetheart, as fast as you can." 

... THE END 




Fresh Fields of Science 
Are His Home Ground 



CYBERNETICS is a word that 
has been accepted and placed in 
everyday use with amazing rapidity. 
It is also a concept of tremendous 
usefulness and awe-inspiring possi- 
bilities. The man who coined the 
word and gave the world the con- 
cept is Professor Norbert Weincr of 
the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology in Boston. 

Considered one of the top six ma- 
thematicians in the United States, 
this one-time child prodigy pub- 
lished his study of control and com- 
munication in the animal and the 
machine under the title, Cyber- 
netics, in the early part of 1949. 
Within six weeks after the first 
American printing ( it was pub- 
lished first in France), three more 
printings were necessary because of 
the unprecedented demand for it 
from readers of all types. The book 

is beautifully written, lucid, direct 

and, despite its complexity, readable 
by the layman as well as the scien- 
tist; it has been said that anyone 
seriously interested in our civiliza- 
tion would find it imposible to 
ignore. 

It is not easy to ignore Weiner 
himself, cither. Norbert Weiner is 




91 



Norbert Weiner 



short, heavy, brown-eyed, greying, 
and bearded; he is also a bundle of 
nervous energy. Although best 
known as a mathematician, he is 
also a physicist, an engineer, and an 
expert in almost all the physical 
sciences. Just to top it off, he has 
a doctor's degree in philosophy. 
Hut he scohTs disdainfully at anyone 
who calls him a genius, and proves 
his. jK>int by bidding wildly at 
bridge and playing only mediocre 
chess, 

Born in Columbus, Missouri, in 
1894, Weiner was constantly being 
written up in newspapers because 
of his precocity. The family's move 
halfway across the continent to 
Massachusetts when he was in his 
early childhood did little to hamper 
young Norbert's education. Ih 



92 



PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 



managed to graduate from the local 
high school at the age of 12, and 
received his Bachelor of Arts de- 
gree from Tufts College when he 
was 15. By tins time he had had 
four years of Greek, seven years of 
1 ,atin, four of German, one of 
French and a smattering of both 
Spanish and Chinese in addition to 
his scientific education. 

After getting his Master's at Har- 
vard, he took extension courses at 
Cambridge and Heidelberg. For ;i 
while he proceeded to use this mag- 
nificent education to earn his living 
as a high-class hack writer for the 
Encyclopedia Brittanica. He spent 
a year as a reporter for the Boston 
Herald, and between 1917and 1918 
worked at the Aberdeen Proving 
Grounds, first as a civilian computer 
and later as a private in the Army. 

During World War II Werner 
worked for the United States Gov- 
ernment on the construction of au- 
tomatically aimed guns, and did re- 
search in the guided missile field. 
When questioned about the latter 
work he told reporters, "The inter- 
change of ideas which is one of the 
great traditions of science must re- 
ceive limitations when the scientist 
becomes the arbiter of life and 
death. I realize that I am acting as 
a censor of my own ideas and may 
sound arbitrary. If I do not desire 
to participate in the bombing of de- 
fenseless people — and I do not — I 
must take a serious responsibility as 
to those to whom I disclose my 
ideas." 

During his war work Weiner 
studied the handling of information 
in highly involved machines such as 
automatic computers, radar devices, 
servo mechanisms and others. From 



the operation of the feedback prin- 
ciple (which is nicely exemplified by 
the thermostat) in these devices, 
and the necessary preoccupation 
with accuracy rather than efficiency 
found in their design, it was made 
evident to Weiner and his fellow 
workers in the field — physicists, 
pgyi Imlogists, electronics engineers, 
and researchers from almost every 
other division of science — that a 
similarity existed between such me- 
chanisms and the human brain and 
nervous system. Cybernetics, which 
Weiner considered an invasion of 
the no-man's land betwen establish- 
ed fields, was the natural result. 



THE PROPER names of Werner's 
two most important discoveries 
are less familiar; they are Gcneral- 
ked Harmonic Analysis and the 
Universal Tauberian Theorem. In- 
credibly involved and difficult to 
understand, these are the results of 
his constant probing into the un- 
known territories of mathematics. 
The results of his discoveries are in 
the newspapers every day, and in- 
clude not only the electronic brain 
and automatically tracking guns but 
also "automatic factories" now be- 
ing put into use by the chemical in- 
dustry. 

As a typical example of control 
and communication in the machine, 
Professor Weiner cites the governor 
of a steam engine, which senses 
mechanically when the engine is 
going too fast and reduces the steam 
supply accordingly. A machine, 
when instructed to carry out a cer- 
tain task, will do so — barring me- 
chanical failure. A man may carry 
out the task or he may refuse to do 



PERSONALITIES IN SCIENCE 



93 



so — for some sound reason, for pure 
cussedncss, or out of sheer laziness. 
The difference, according to Wcin- 
er, "proves the immense superiority 
of man over the machine." 

The Professor believes that the 
great new computers are harbingers 
of a whole new science of communi- 
cation and control. So far, they 
have no senses or electors such as 
arms and legs, hut why shouldn't 
they have in the future? There are 
all sorts of artificial eyes, cars and 
fingertips ( thermometers, strain 
gauges, pressure indicators, photo- 
electric tubes) that may be hooked 
up to them. The machines already 
can and do work typewriters to set 
down answers to the questions fed 
into them; Weincr insists that they 
can be huilt to work valves, switches 
and other control devices. 

Such a development, says Weincr, 
will usher in "the second industrial 
revolution"— there will be wholly 
automatic factories with artificial 
brains keeping track of every pro- 
cess. They will order raw materials, 
inspect them, store them, route 
them through the plant. 

Some of the Professor's colleagues 
call this pure sensationalism. Others 
acclaim it. In point of fact, the 
telephone company has already in- 
stalled computer-type machines that 
watch the operation! of a dial ex- 
change and total up the subscribers' 
bills. It's reasonable to expect many 
more of Weincr' s ideas to be put in- 
to use in the near future. He is not 
only amazingly good at discovering 
and developing them, but he is also 
much better at pointing out the 
practical possibilities than the aver- 
age theoretical scientist. 

His work with machines alone 



should not be overemphasized, how- 
ever. He has ideas for improving 
the iron lung, for instance, by al- 
lowing the paralyzed person to con- 
trol the artificial breathing appara- 
tus with his own nerve impulses. He 
believes that someday amputees will 
be provided with artificial arms and 
legs with which they can actually 
feel. He also wants to use electronic 
brains to gain new and deeper in- 
sights into human thinking and var- 
ious mental and nervous disorder!. 

A list of Norbert Weincr's con- 
tributions to mathematics, scientific 
and philosophical journals totals 
more than one hundred and reveals 
better than anything else how widc- 
spi ead his interests are. In these ar- 
bcles he has discussed such varied — 
and difficult subjects as the postu- 
late theory, the foundation of ma- 
thematics, the assemblages and 
functions of a real variable, proba- 
bility theory, analysis, Tauberian 
theorems, mathematical logic, trigo- 
nometric expansion, potential the- 
ory analysis, relativity, epistomology 
and electrical networks. 

This definitely human thinking 
machine lives in an unpretentious 
house in Belmont. Massachusetts, 
claiming he has no time for any ol 
the usual pleasures and privileges 
associated with wealth and prestige. 
The time and energy he pours into 
his work, on the other hand, is 
enormous. He's often tired and pre- 
occupied, and has a few of the typi- 
cal eccentricities of the famous ab- 
sent-minded professor. But the truth 
is exactly the opposite; he is very 
much present in his mind, and 
through his searchings there he 
Is learning more and more about 
your mind and mine! 



Harold discovered the time-sphere by a lucky accident. His 
brother Peter decided to use it selfishly, and laid his plans with 
extreme care. Then there was another accident . . . 



ANACHRON 



By Damon Knight 



Illustrated by Philip B. Parsons 



THE BODY was never found. 
And for that reason alone, there 
was no body to find. 

It sounds like inverted logic — 
which, in a sense, it is — but there's 
no paradox involved. It was a per- 
fectly orderly and explicable event, 
even though it could only have hap^ 
pened to a Gastellare. 

Odd fish, the Castcllare brothers. 
Sous of a Scots-EngHshworaan and 
an expatriate Italian, born in Eng- 
land, educated on the Continent, 
they were at case anywhere in the 
world and at home nowhere. 

Nevertheless, in their middle 
years, they had become settled men. 
Expatriates like their father, they 
lived on the island of Ischia, olf' 
the Neapolitan coast, in a palace — 
quattrocento, very fine, with peel- 
ing cupids on the walls, a multitude 
of rats, no central heating, and no 
ncir-hbors. 



They went nowhere; no one ex- 
cept their agents and their lawyers 
came to them. Neither had ever 
married. Each, at about the age of 
thirty, had given up the world of 
people for an inner world of more 
precise and more enduring pleas- 
ures. Each was an amateur — a 
fanatical, compulsive amateur. 

They had been born out of their 
time. 

Peter's passion was virtu. He col- 
lected relentlessly, it would not be 
too much to say savagely; he col- 
lected as some men hunt big game. 
His taste was catholic, and his ac- 
quisitions filled the huge rooms of 
the palace and half the vaults under 
them — paintings, statuary, enamel, 
porcelain, glass, crystal, metalwork. 
At fifty, he was a round little man 
with small, sardonic eyes and a care- 
less patch of pinkish goatee. 

Harold Castcllare, Peter's talented 



95 



96 



DAMON KNIGHT 



l rother, was a scientist. An amateur 
scientist. He belonged in the 19th 
century, as Peter was a throwback 
to a still earlier epoch. Modern 
science is largely a matter of team- 
work and drudgery, both impossible 
concepts to a Castcllarc. But Har- 
old's intelligence was in its own way 
as penetrating and original as a 
Newton's or a Franklin's. He had 
done respectable work in physics 
and electronics, and had even, at his 
lawyer's instance, taken out a few 
patents. The income from these, 
when his own purchases of instru- 
ments and equipment did not con- 
sume it, he gave to his brother, who 
accepted it without gratitude or 
rancor. 

Harold, at fifty-three, was spare 
and shrunken, sallow and spotted, 
with a bloodless, melancholy coun- 
tenance on whose upper lip grew a 
neat hedge of pink-and-salt mus- 
tache, the companion piece and 
antithesis of his brother's goatee. 

On a certain May morning, Har- 
old had an accident. 

Goodyear dropped rubber on a 
hot stove; Archimedes took a bath; 
Curie left a piece of uranium ore in 
a drawer with a photographic plate. 
1 [.Hold Castcllarc, working pa- 
tiently 1 with an apparatus which had 
so far consumed a great deal of 
current without producing anything 

re spectacular than some rather 

unusual corona effects, sneezed con- 
vulsively and dropped an ordinary 
I i,u magnet across two charged 

Irniiin.ik 

Harold] getting up from his in- 
stinctive crouch, blinked at it in 
profound astonishment. As he 
watched, the cloudiness abruptly 

■ ii i pj I and he was looking 



through the bubble at a section <•! 
tesselated flooring that seemed to 
be about three feet above the real 
floor. He could also see the corner 
of a carved wooden bench, and on 
the bench a small, oddly-shaped 
stringed instrument. 

Harold swore fervently to him- 
self, made agitated notes, and then 
began to experiment. He tested tin- 
sphere cautiously with an electro- 
scope, with a magnet, with a Geigcr 
counter. Negative. He tore a tiny 
bit of paper from his notepad and 
dropped it toward the sphere. The 
paper disappeared ; he couldn't see 
where it went. 

Speechless, Harold picked up a 
meter stick and thrust it delicately 
forward. There was no feeling of 
contact ; the rule went into and 
through the bubble as if the latter 
did not exist. Then it touched the 
stringed instrument, with a solid 
click. Harold pushed. The instru- 
ment slid over the edge of the 
bench and struck the floor with a 
hollow thump and jangle. 

Staring at it, Harold suddenly 
recognized its tantalizingly familiar 
shape. 

Recklessly he let go the meter 
stick, reached in and picked the fra- 
gile thing out of the bubble. It was 
solid and cool in his fingers. The 
varnish was clear, the color of the 
wood glowing through it. It looked 
as if it might have been made 
yesterday. 

Peter owned one almost exactly 
like it, except for preservation — a 
viola d'amoic of the 17th century. 

Harold stooped to look through 
the bubble horizontally. Gold and 
rust tapestries hid the wall, fifty feel 
away, except for an ornate door in 



ANACHRON 



97 



! tcr. The door began to open; 

Harold saw a flicker of umber. 
I ben the sphere went cloudy 

r.Mii. Mis hands were empty; the 
ylola tl'amore was gone. And the 
mi hr stick, which he had dropped 
in Milr the sphere, lay on the floor 
.a his feet. 



IOOK AT THAT," said Harold 
I simply. 

Peter's eyebrows went up slightly. 
What is it, a new kind of tele- 
vision?" 

"No, no. Look heix." The viola 
jfvnore lay on the bench, precisely 
(vherc it had been before. Harold 
reached into the sphere and drew 
it out. 

JVtcr started. "Give me that .. ." 
1 1<- took it in his hands, rubbed the 
smoothly finished wood. He stared 
at his brother. "By God and all the 
saints," he said. "Time travel." 

Harold snorted impatiently. "My 
il'.u Peter, 'time* is a meaning- 
I word taken by itself, just as 
! .- c' is." 

"But, barring that, time travel." 

"If you like, yes." 

"You'll he quite famous." 

"I expect so." 

Peter looked down at the instru- 
ment iri his hands. "I'd like to keep 
this, if I may." 

"I'd be very happy to let you, but 
■ mi i a n't." 

As he spoke, the bubble went 
i loudy; the viola d'amorc was gone 
like smoke. 

"There, you sec?" 

"What sort of devil's trick is 

"It goes back . . . Later you'll 
■ ■ ' I had that thing out once be- 



fore, and this happened. When the 
sphere became transparent again, 
the viol was where I had found it." 

"And your explanation for this?" 

Harold hesitated. "None. Until 
I can work out the appropriate 
mathematics — " 

" — Which may take you some 
time. Meanwhile, ill layman's lan- 
guage—?" 

Harold's face creased with the 
effort and interest of translation. 
"Very roughly, then — I should say 
it means that events arc conserved. 
Two or three centuries ago — " 

"Three. Notice the sound-holes." 

"Three centuries ago, then, at 
this particular time of day, someone 
was in that room. If the viol were 
gone, he or she would have noticed 
the fact. That would constitute an 
alteration of events already fixed; 
therefore it doesn't happen. For 
the same reason, I conjecture, we 
can't see into the sphere, or — " He 
probed at it with a fountain pen. 
" — I thought not — or reach into it 
to touch anything; that would also 
constitute an alteration. And any- 
thing we put into the sphere while 
it is transparent comes out again 
when it becomes opaque. To put it 
very crudely, wc cannot alter the 
past." 

"But it seems to me that we did 
alter it. Just now, when you took 
the viol out, even if no one of that 
time saw it happen." 

"This," said Harold, "is the dif- 
ficulty of using language as a means 
of exact communication. If you had 
not forgotten all your calculus — 
However. It may be postulated (re- 
membering that everything I say 
is a He, because I say it in English) 
that an event which doesn't inllu- 



98 



DAMON KNIGHT 



cncc othrr events is not an event. 
In other words — " 

"That, since no one saw you take 
it. it doesn't inatto" whether you 
took it or not. A rather dangerous 
precept, Harold; you would have 
been tunned at the stake for that at 
one time." 

"Very likely. But it ran be Stated 
in another way, or indeed, in an 
infinity of ways which only seem to 
be different. If someone, let us say 
God, were to remove 1 1 1*- moon as I 
am talking to you, using zero dura- 
tion, and substitute an exact replica 
made of concrete and plaster of 
paris, with the same mass, albedo, 
and so on as the genuine moon, it 
would make no measurable differ- 
ence in the universe as we perceive 
it' — and therefore we cannot cer- 
tainly say that it hasn't happened. 
Nor, I may add, dries it make any 
difference whether it has or not." 

" — 'when there's no one about 
on the quad 1 ," said Peter. 

"Yes. A basic, and, as a natural 
cnusetjuenrc, a meaningless prob- 
lem of philosophy. Except," he 
added, "in this one particular mani- 
festation." 

He stared at the cloudy sphere. 
"You'll excuse me, won't you, 
Peter? I've got to work on this." 

"When will you publish, do you 
suppose?" 

"Immediately. That's to say, in 
a week or two." 

"Don't do it till you've talked it 
over with me, will you? I have a 
notion about it." 

Harold looked at him sharply. 
"Commercial?" 

"In a way." 

"No," said Harold. "This is not 
the boxI <>i thin*; one patents, or 



keeps secret, Peter." 

"Of course. I'll sec you at din- 
ner, I hope?" 

"I think so. If I forget, knock 
on the door, will you?" 

"Yes. Until then." 

"Until then." 



AT DINNER, Peter asked only 
two questions. 

"Have you found any possibility 
of changing the time your thing 
reaches— from the .seventeenth cen- 
tury to the eighteenth, for example, 
or from Monday to Tuesday?" 

"Yes, as a matter of fact. Amaz- 
ing. It's lucky that I had a rheostat 
already in the circuit; I wouldn't 
dare turn the current off. Varying 
the amperage varies the time-set. 
I've had it up to what I think was 
Wednesday of last week, at any rate 
my- smock was lying over the work- 
bench where I left it, I remember, 
Wednesday afternoon. I pulled it 
out. A curious sensation, Peter — I 
was wearing the same smock at the 
time. And then the sphere went 
opaque and of course the smock 
vanished. That must have been my- 
self, coming into the room . . ." 

"And the future?" 

"Yes. Another funny thing, I've 
had it forward to various times in 
the near future, and the machine 
itself is still there, but nothing's 
been done to it . . . none of the 
things I'm thinking I might do. 
That might be because of the con- 
servation of events, again, but I 
rather think not. Still farther for- 
ward there are cloudy areas, blanks; 
I can't sec anything that isn't in 
existence now, apparently . . . but 
here, in the next few days, there's 



ANACHRON 



99 



nothing of that. 

"It's as if I were going away. 
Where do you suppose I'm going?" 



HAROLD'S ABRUPT depar- 
ture took place between mid- 
night and morning. He packed his 
own grip, it would seem, left un- 
attended, and was seen DO more. It 
was extraordinary] of course, that 
he should have left at all, but die 
details were in no way odd. Harold 
had always detested what he called 
"thr tyranny of the valet." He was, 
as everyone knew, a most indepen- 
dent man. 

On the following day Peter made 
some trifling experiments with the 
time-sphere. From the 16th cen- 
tury he picked up a scent-bottle of 
Venetian glass; from the 18th, a 
crucifix of carved rosewood ; from 
the 19th, when the palace had been 
the residence of an Austrian count 
and his Italian mistress, a hand- 
illuminated copy of de Sadc's La 
Nouvelle Justine, very curiously 
bound in human skin. 

They all vanished, naturally, 
within minutes or hours — all but 
flu Kent-bottle. This gave Peter 
matter for reflection. There bud 
been half a dozen flickers of cloudi- 
ness in the sphere just futureward 
of the bottle; it ought to have van- 
ished, but it hadn't. But then, he 
had found it on tin* floor near a 
wall with quite a large rat-hole 
in it. 

When objects disappeared unac- 
countably, he askrd himself, was it 

because they had rolled into rat- 
holes — or because some time fisher 
had picked them up when they 
were in a position to do so? 



He did not make any attempt to 
explore the future. That afternoon 
he telephoned Ins lawyers in Naples 
and gave them instructions for a 
new will. His estate, including his 
half of the jointly-owned Ischia 
property, was to go to the Italian 
Government on two conditions: 

(1) that Harold Castellarc would 
make a similar bequest of the re- 
maining half of the property, and 

(2) that the Italian Government 
would turn the palace into a na- 
tional museum to house Peter's col- 
lection, using the income from his 
estate for its administration and for 
further acquisitions. His surviving 
relatives, two cousins in Scotland, 
he cut off with a shilling each. 

He did nothing more until after 
the document had been brought out 
to him, signed, and witnessed. Only 
then did he venture to look into his 
own future* 

Events were conserved, Harold 
had said — meaning, Peter very well 
understood, events of the present 
and future as well as of the past. 
But was there only one pattern in 
which the future could Ik* fixed? 
Could a result exist before its cause 
had occurred? 

The Castellan motto was Auden- 
tes fortuna jura! — into which Peter, 
at the age of fourteen, had inter- 
polated the word " prudent esque": 
"Fortune favors the bold — and the 
prudent." 

Tomorrow: no change; the room 
he was looking at was so exactly 
like this one that the time-sphere 
seemed to vanish. The next day: a 
cloudy blur. And the next, and the 
next . . . 

Opacity, straight through to what 
Peter judged, by the distance he 



100 



DAMON KNIGHT 



I i.K I moved the rheostat handle, to 

l yean ahead. Then, suddenly, 

th- room was a long marble hall 
filled with display cases, 

PfttCI smiled wryly. If you were 
Harold, obviously you could not 
h>o]( ahead and see Peter working 
in youi laboratory. And if you were 
Peter, equally obviously, you could 
not look ahead and know whether 
the room you saw were an improve- 
ment you yourself were going to 
make, or part of a museum estab- 
lished after your death, eight or 
Dine years from now, or — 

No. Eight years was little enough, 
but he could not even be sure of 
that It would, after all, be seven 
years before Harold could be de- 
dared legally dead . . . 

Peter turned the vernier knob 
slowly forward. A flicker, another, 
a long scries. Forward faster. Now 
the nickering melted into a gray- 
ness; objects winked out of exist- 
ence and were replaced by others in 
the showcases ; the marble dark- 
ened and lightened again, darkened 
and lightened, darkened and re- 
mained dark. He was, Peter judged, 
looking at the hall as it would be 
<>iii< hve hundred years in the fu- 
ture. There was a thick film of dust 
on every exposed surface; rubbish 
and the carcass of some small ani- 
mal had been swept carelessly into 
a corner. 

The sphere clouded. 

When it cleared, there was an 
Intricate trail of footprints in the 
dint, and two of the showcases were 
empty. 

The footprints were splayed, tri- 
furcate, and thirty inrhes long. 

\tii r ■ moment's deliberation 
Pcterwal I the workbench 



and leaned down to look through 
the sphere from the opposite direc- 
tion. Framed in the nearest of the 
four tall windows was a scene of 
picture-postcard banality: the sun- 
silvered Bay and the foreshortened 
arc of the city, with Vesuvio faintly 
fuming in the background. But 
there was something wrong about 
the cold's, even grayed as they were 
by distance. 

Peter went and got his binoculars. 

The trouble was, of course, that 
Naples was green. Where the city 
ought to have been a rankness had 
sprouted. Between the dumps of 
foliage he could catch occasional 
glimpses of gray-white that might 
equally well have been boulders or 
the wreckage of buildings. There 
was no movement. There was no 
shipping in the harbor. 

But something rather odd was 
crawling up the side of the volcano. 
A rust-orange pipe, it appeared to 
be, supported on hairline struts like 
the legs of a centipede, and ending 
without rhyme or reason just short 
of the top. 

While Peter watched, it turned 
slowly blue. 



ONE DAY farther forward: 
now all the display cases had 
been looted; the museum, it would 
seem, was empty. 

Given, that in five centuries the 
world, or at any rate the depart- 
ment of Campania, has been over- 
run by a race of Somethings, the 
human population being killed or 
driven out in the process; and that 
the conquerors take an interest in 
the museum's contents, which they 
have accordingly removed. 



ANACHRON 



101 



Removed where, and why? 

This question, Peter conceded, 
might have a thousand answers, 
nine hundred and ninety-nine of 
which would mean that he had lost 
his gamble. The remaining answer 
was: to the vaults, for safety. 

With his own hands Peter built 
a hood to cover the apparatus on 
the workbench and the sphere 
above it. It was unaccustomed 
labor; it took him the better part 
of two days. Then he called in 
workmen to break a hole in the 
stone flooring next to the interior 
wall, rig a hoist, and cut the power 
cable that supplied the time-sphere 
loose from its supports all the way 
back to the fuse-box, leaving him a 
single flexible length of cable more 
than a hundred feet long. They un- 
bolted the workbench from the 
floor, attached casters to its legs, 
lowered it into the empty vault be- 
low, and went away. 

Peter unfastened and removed 
the hood. He looked into the 
sphere. 

Treasure. 

Crates, large and small, racked 
in rows into dimness. 

With pudgy fingers that did not 
tremble, he advanced the rheostat. 
A cloudy flicker, another, a leaping 
blur of diem as he moved the ver- 
nin faster — and then no more, BO 
the limit of the time-sphere's range. 

Two hundred years, Peter guessed 
—A. D. 2700 to 2900 or thereabout 
— in which no one would enter the 
vault. Two hundred years of "un- 
liquidated lime." 

Me put tin- rheostat back to the 
beginning of that uninterrupted 
period. He drew out a small crate 
and prized it open. 



Chessmen, ivory with gold inlay, 
Florentine, 14th century. Superb. 

Another, from the opposite rack. 

T'ang figurines, horses and men, 
ten to fourteen inches high. 
Priceless. 



THE CRATES would not burn, 
Tomaso told him. He went 
down to the kitchen to see, and it 
was true. The pieces lay in the roar- 
ing stove untouched. He fished one 
out with a poker; even the feathery 
splinters of the unplaned wood had 
not ignited. 

It made a certain extraordinary 
kind of sense. When the moment 
came for the crates to go back, any 
physical scrambling that. had oc- 
curred in the meantime would have 
no cfTect; they would simply put 
themselves together as they had 
been before, like Thor's goats. But 
burning was another matter; burn- 
ing would have released energy 
which could not be replaced. 

That settled one paradox, at any 
rate. There was another that 
nagged at Peter's orderly mind. If 
the things he took out of that vault, 
seven hundred-odd years in the fu- 
ture, were to become part of the 
collection bequeathed by him to the 
museum, preserved by it, and even- 
tually stored in the vault for him 
to find— then precisely where had 
they come from in the first place? 

It worried him. Peter had learned 
in life, as his brother in physics, that 
one never gett anything for nothing. 

Moreover this riddle was only one 
of his perplexities, and that not 
among the greatest. For another 
example, there was the obstinate 
opacity of the time-sphere when- 



ANACHRON 



103 



ever he attempted to examine the 
immediate future. However often 
he tried it the result was always the 
same: a cloudy blank, all the way 
forward to the sudden unveiling of 
the marble gallery. 

It -was reasonable to expect the 
sphere to show nothing at times 
when he himself was going to be 
in the vault, hut this accounted for 
only five or six hours out of every 
twenty-four. Again, presumably, it 
would show him no changes to be 
made by himself, since foreknowl- 
edge would make it possible for him 
to alter his actions. But he labori- 
ously cleared one end of the vault, 
put up a screen to hide the rest with 
the vow — which he kept — not to 
alter the clear space or move the 
screen for a week — and tried again 
with the same result. 

The only remaining explanation 
was that sometime during the next 
ten years, something was going to 
happen which he would prevent if 
he could; and the clue to it was 
there, buried in that frustrating un- 
broken blankness. 

As a corollary, it was going to be 
something which he could prevent 
if only he knew what it was ... or 
even when it was supposed to 
happen. 

The event in question, in all 
probability, was his own death. 
Peter therefore hired nine men to 
guard him, three to a shift — be- 
cause one man alone could not be 
trusted, two might conspire against 
him, whereas three, with the very 
minimum of effort, could be kept 
in a state of mutual suspicion . He 
also underwent a thorough medical 
examination, had new locks in- 
stalled on everv door and window, 



and took every other precaution in- 
genuity could suggest. When he had 
done all these things, the next ten 
years were as blank as before. 

Peter had more than half ex- 
pected it. He checked through his 
list of safeguards once more, found 
it good, and thereafter let the mat- 
ter rest. He had done all he could; 
either he would survive the crisis or 
he would not. In either case, events 
were conserved ; the time-sphere 
could give him no forewarning. 

Another man might have found 
his pleasure blunted by guilt and 
fear; Peter's was whetted to a 
keener edge. If he had been a re- 
cluse before, now he was an ere- 
mite; he grudged every hour that 
was not given to his work. Mornings 
he spent in the vault, unpacking 
his acquisitions; afternoons and eve- 
nings, sorting, cataloguing, examin- 
ing, and — the word is not too strong 
— gloating. When three weeks had 
passed in this way, the shelves were 
bare as far as the power cable 
would allow him to reach in every 
direction, except for crates whose 
contents were undoubtedly too 
large to pass through the sphere. 
These, with heroic self-control, 
Peter had left untouched. 
* And still he had looted only a 
hundredth part of that incredible 
treasure-house. With grappling 
hooks he could have extended his 
reach by perhaps three or four 
yards, but at the risk of damaging 
his prizes ; and in any ease this 
would have been no solution but 
only a postponement of the prob- 
lem. There was nothing for it but 
to go through the sphere himself, 
and unpack the crates while on the 
other "side" of it. 



104 



DAMON KNIGHT 



PETER THOUGHT about it in 
a fury of concentration for the 
rest of the day. So far as he was 
concerned there was no question 
that the gain would be worth any 
calculated risk; the problem was 
how to measure the risk and if pos- 
sible reduce it. 

Item: he felt a definite uneasi- 
ness at the thought of venturing 
through that insubstantial bubble. 
Intuition was supported, if not by 
logic, at least by a sense of the 
dramatically appropriate. Now, if 
ever, would be the time for his 
crisis. 

Item: common sense did not con- 
cur. The uneasiness had two sym- 
bols. One was the white face of 
his brother Harold just before the 
water closed over it; the other was 
a phantasm born of those gigantic, 
splayed footprints in the dust of the 
gallery. In spite of himself, Peter 
had often found himself trying to 
imagine what the creatures that 
made them must look like, until his 
visualization was so clear that he 
could almost swear he had seen 
them. 

Towering monsters they were, 
with crested ophidian heads and 
great unwinking eyes; and they 
moved in a strutting glide, nodding 
their heads, like fantastic barnyard 
fowl . . . 

But, taking these premonitory 
images in turn; first, it was impos- 
sible that he should ever be seri- 
ously inconvenienced by Harold's 
death. There were no witnesses; he 

wu lure; he had struck the blow 
With a stone; stones also wen- the 
weights thai had dragged the body 
down, and the rope was an odd 
Petei had picked up on the 



shore. Second, the three-toed Some- 
things might be as fearful as all the 
world's bogies put together; it made 
no difference, he could never meet 
them. 

Nevertheless, the uneasiness per- 
sisted ; Peter was not satisfied ; he 
wanted a lifeline. When he found 
it, he wondered that he had not 
thought of it before. 

He would set the time-sphere for 
a period just before one of the in- 
tervals of blankness. That would 
take care of accidents, sudden ill- 
nesses, and other unforeseeable con- 
tingencies. It would also insure him 
against one very real and not at all 
irrational dread : the fear that the 
mechanism which generated the 
time-sphere might fail while he was 
on the other side. For the conserva- 
tion of events was not a condition 
created by the sphere but one which 
limited its operation. No matter 
what happened, it was impossible 
for him to occupy the same place- 
time as any future or past observer; 
therefore, when the monster entered 
that vault, Peter would not be there 
any more. 

There was, of course, the scent- 
bottle to remember. Every rule has 
its excrption; but in this case, Peter 
thought, the example did not apply. 
A scent-bottle could roll into a rat- 
hole; a man could not. 

He turned the rheostat carefully 
back to the last flicker of grayncss; 
past that to the next, still more care- 
fully. The interval between the 
two, he judged, was something 
under an hour: excellent. 

His pulse seemed a trifle rapid, 
but his brain was clear and cool. 
He thrust his head into the sphere 
and sniffed cautiously. The air was 



ANACHRON 



105 



stale and had a faint, unpleasant 
odor, but it was breathable. 

Using a crate as a stepping-stool, 
he climbed to the top of the work- 
bench. He arranged another close 
to the sphere to make a platform 
level .with its equator. And seven 
and a half centuries in the future, 
a third crate stood on the floor di- 
rectly under the sphere. 

Peter stepprd into the sphere, 
dropped, and landed easily, legs 
bending to take the shock. When 
he straightened, he was standing in 
what to all appearances was a large 
circular hole in the workbench; his 
chin was just above the top of 
the sphere. 

He lowered himself, half-squat- 
ting, until he had drawn his head 
through and stepped down from 
the crate. 

He was in the future vault. The 
sphere was a brightly luminous 
thing that hung unsupported in the 
air behind him, its midpoint just 
higher than his head. The shadows 
i* cast spread black and wedge- 
shaped in every direction, melting 
into obscurity. 

Peter's heart was pounding mis- 
erably. He had an illusory stifling 
sensation, coupled with the idiotic 
notion that he ought to be wearing 
a diver's helmet. The silence was 
like the pause before a shout. 

But down the aisles marched the 
crated treasures in their hundreds. 

Peter set to work. It was diffi- 
cult, exacting labor, opening the 
crates where they lay, removing the 
contents and nailing the crates up 
again, all without disturbing the 
positions of the crates themselves, 
but it was the price he had to pay 
for his lifeline. Each crate was in 



a sense a microcosm, like the vault 
itself — a capsule of unliquidated 
time. But the vault's term would 
end some fifty minutes from now, 
when crested heads nodded down 
these aisles; those of the crates' in- 
teriors, for all that Peter knew to 
the contrary, went on forever. 

The first crate contained lace- 
work porcelain; the second, sha- 
kudo sword-hilts; the thud, an 
exquisite 4th-ccntury Greek orna- 
ment in repousse bronze, the equal 
in every way of the Siris bronzes. 

Peter found it almost physically 
difficult to set the thing down, but 
he did so; standing on his platform- 
crate in the future with his head 
projecting above the sphere in the 
present — like (again the absurd 
thought!) a diver rising from the 
ocean — he laid it carefully beside 
the others on the workbench. 

Then down again, into the fragile 
Silence and the gloom. The next 
crates were too large, and those just 
beyond were doubtful. Peter fol- 
lowed his shadow down the aisle. 
He had almost thirty minutes left: 
enough for one more crate, chosen 
with care, and an ample margin. 

Glancing to his right at the end 
of the row, he saw a door. 

It was a heavy door, rivet- 
studded, with a single iron step be- 
low it. There had been no door 
there in Peter's time ; the whole 
plan of the building must have been 
altered. Of course!, he realized 
suddenly. If it had not, if so much 
as a single tile or lintel had re- 
mained of the palace as he knew it, 
then the sphere could never have 
let him see or enter this particular 
hcrc-and-now, this— what would 
Harold have called it — -this nexus 



106 



DAMON KNIGHT 



in space-time. 

For if you saw any now-existing 
thing as it was going to appear in 
the future, you could alter it in the 
present— carve your initials in it, 
break it apart, chop it down— 
which was manifestly impossible, 
and therefore . . . 

And therefore the first ten years 
were necessarily blank when he 
looked into the sphere, not because 
anything unpleasant was going to 
happen to him, but because in that 
time the last traces of the old palace 
had not yet been eradicated. 

There was no crisis. 

Wait a moment; though! Harold 
had been able to look into the near 
future . . . But — of course — Harold 
had been about to die. 

In the dimness between Peter and 
the door he saw a rack of crates 
that looked promising. The way 
was uneven; one of the untidy 
accumulations of refuse that seemed 
to be characteristic of the Some- 
things lay in windrows across the 
floor. Peter stepped forward care- 
fully — but not carefully enough. 



HAROLD CASTELLARE had 
had another accident — and 
again, if you choose to look at it in 
that way, a lucky one. The blow 
stunned him; the old rope slipped 
from the stones; flaccid, he floated 
where a struggling man might have 
drowned. A fishing boat nearly ran 
him down and picked him up in- 
stead, su fie ring from a concussion, 
shock, exposure, and asphyxiation 
and more than three-quarters dead 
. . . Hut he was still alive when he 
was delivered, an hour later, to a 
hospital in Naples. 



There were of course no identi- 
fying papers, labels or monograms 
in his clothing— Peter had seen to 
that — and for the first week after 
his rescue Harold was quite genu- 
inely unable to give any account of 
himself. During the second week he 
was mending but uncommunica- 
tive, and at the end of the third, 
finding that there was some diffi- 
culty about gaining his release in 
spite of his physical recovery, he 
affected to recover his memory, 
gave a circumstantial but entirely 
fictitious identification and was 
discharged. 

To understand this as well as all 
his subsequent actions, it is only 
accessary to remember that Harold 
was a Castellare. In Naples, not 
wishing to give Peter any unneces- 
sary anxiety, he did not approach 
his bank for funds but cashed a 
check with an incurious acquaint- 
ance, and predated it by four weeks. 
With part of the money so acquired 
he paid his hospital bill and re- 
warded his rescuers. Another part 
went for new clothing and for four 
days' residence in an inconspicuous 
hotel, while he grew used to walk- 
ing and dressing himself again. The 
rest, on his last day, he spent in the 
purchase of a discreetly small re- 
volver and a box of cartridges. 

lie took the last boat to Ischki, 
and arrived at his own front door 
a lew minutes hefore eleven. It was 
a coo! evening, and a most cheer- 
ful fire was burning in the central 
hall. 

"Signor Peter is well, I suppose," 
said Harold, removing his coat. 

"Yes, Signor Harold. He is very 
well, very busy with his collection." 

"Where is he? I should like to 



ANACHRON 



107 



speak to him." 

"He is in the vaults, Signer Har- 
old. But—" 

"Yes?" 

"Signor Peter sees no one when 
he is in the vaults. He has given 
strict orders that no one is to bother 
him, Signor Harold, when he is in 
the vaults." 

**Oh, well," said Harold. "I dare- 
say he'll sec me." 



IT WAS A THING something 
like a bear trap, apparently, 
except that instead of two semi- 
circular jaws it had four segments 
that snapped together in the mid- 
dle, each with a shallow, sharp 
tooth. The pain was quite unen- 
durable. 

Each segment moved at the end 
of a thin arm, cunningly hinged so 
that the ghastly thing would close 
over whichever of the four triggers 
you stepped on. Each arm had a 
spring too powerful for Peter's 
muscles. The whole affair was con- 
nected by a chain to a staple solidly 
embedded in the concrete floor; it 
left Peter free to move in any direc- 
tion a matter of some ten inches. 
Short of gnawing off his own leg, 
he thought sickly, there was very 
little he could do about it. 

The riddle was, what could the 
thing possibly be doing here? There 
were rats in the vaults, no doubt, 
now as in his own time, but surely 
nothing larger. Was it conceivable 
that even the three-toed Somethings 
would set an engine like this to 
catch a rat? 

Lost inventions, Peter thought 
irrelevantly, had a way of being 
rediscovered. Even if he suppressed 



the time-sphere during his lifetime 
and it did not happen to survive 
him, still there might be other time- 
fishers in the remote future — not 
here, perhaps, but in other treasure- 
houses of the world. And that 
might account for the existence of 
this metal-jawed horror. Indeed, it 
might account for the vault itself — ■ 
a better man-trap — except that it 
was all nonsense, the trap could only 
be full until the trapper came 
to look at it. Events, and the lives 
of prudent time- travelers, were 
conserved. 

And he had been in the vault for 
almost forty minutes. Twenty min- 
utes to go, twenty-five, thirty at the 
most, then the Somethings would 
enter and their entrance would free 
him. He had his lifeline; the knowl- 
edge was the only thing that made 
it possible to live with the pain that 
was the center of his universe just 
now. It was like going to the den- 
tist, in the bad old days before 
procaine; it was very bad, some- 
times, but you knew that it 
would end. 

He cocked his head toward the 
door, holding his breath. A distant 
thud, another, then a curiously un- 
pleasant squeaking, then silence. 

But he had heard them. He knew 
they were there. It couldn't be 
much longer now. 



THREE MEN, two stocky, one 
lean, were playing cards in the 
passageway in front of the closed 
door that led to the vault staircase. 
They got up slowly. 

"Who is he?" demanded the 
shortest one. 

Tomaso clattered at him in fur- 



108 



DAMON KNIGHT 



ious Sicilian; the man's face dark- 
ened, but he looked at Harold with 
respect. 

"I am now," stated Harold, "go- 
ing down to see my brother." 

"No, signor," said the shortest 
one positively. 

"You arc impertinent," Harold 
told him. 

"Yes, signor." 

Harold frowned. "You will not 
let me pass?" 
"No, signor." 

"Then go and tell my brother I 
am here." 

The shortest one said apologeti- 
cally but firmly that there were 
strict orders against this also; it 
would have astonished Harold very 
much if he had said anything else. 
"Well, at least 1 suppose you can 
tell me how long it will be before 
he comes out?" 

"Not long, signor. One hour, no 
more." 

"Oh, very well, then," said Har- 
old pettishly, turning half away. He 
paused. "One thing more," he said, 
taking the gun out of his pocket as 
he turned, "put your hands up and 
stand against the wall there, will 
you?" 

Th c fi rs t t wo com plied slowly. 
The third, the lean one, fired 
through his coat pocket, just like 
die gangsters in the American 
movies. 

It was not a sharp sensation at 
all, Harold was surprised to find; 
it was more as if someone had hit 
him in the side with a cricket bat. 
The racket seemed to bounce inter- 
minably from the walls. He felt 
the gun jolt in his hand as he fired 
back, but couldn't tell if he had hit 
anybody. Everything seemed to be 



happening very slowly, and yet it 
was astonishingly hard to keep his 
balance. As he swung around he 
saw the two stocky ones with their 
hands half inside their jackets, and 
the lean one with his mouth open, 
and Tomaso with bulging <-ycs. 
Then the wall came at him and he 
began to swim along it, paying par- 
ticular attention to the problem of 
not dropping one's gun. 

As he weathered the first turn in 
the passageway the roar broke out 
afresh. A fountain of plaster stung 
his eyes; then he was running clum- 
sily, and there was a bedlam of 
shouting behind him. 

Without thinking about it he 
seemed to have selected the labora- 
tory as his destination, it was an 
instinctive choice, without much to 
recommend it logically, and in any 
case, he realized halfway across the 
central hall, he was not going to 
get there. 

He turned and squinted at the 
passageway entrance; saw a blur 
move and fired at it. It disap- 
peared. He turned again awkward- 
ly and had taken two steps nearer 
an armchair which offered the 
nearest shelter when something 
clubbed him between the shoulder- 
blades. One step more, knees 
buckling, and the wall struck him 
a second, softer blow. He toppled, 
clutching at the tapestry that hung 
near the fireplace. 



WHEN THE three guards, 
whose names were Enrico, 
Alberto and Luca, emerged cau- 
tiously from the passage and ap- 
proached Harold's body it was al- 
ready flaming like a viking's in its 



ANACHRON 



109 



impromptu shroud ; the dim horses 
and men and falcons of the Capo- 
try were writhing and crisping into 
brilliance. A moment later an un- 
certain ring of fire wavered toward 
them across the carpet. 

Although the servants came with 
fire extinguishers and with buckets 
of water from the kitchen, and al- 
though the fire department was 
called, it was all quite useless. In 
five minutes the whole room was 
ablaze, in ten, as windows burst and 
walls buckled, the fire engulfed the 
second story. In twenty a mass of 
flaming timbers dropped into the 
vault through the hole Peter had 
made in the floor of the laboratory, 



utterly destroying the time-sphere 
apparatus and reaching shortly 
thereafter, as the authorities con- 
cerned were later to agree, an in- 
tensity of heat entirely sufficient to 
consume a human body without 
leaving any identifiable trace. For 
that reason alone, there was no 
trace of Peter's body to be found. 



THE SOUNDS had just begun 
again when Peter saw the light 
from the time-sphere turn ruddy 
and then wink out like a snuffed 
candle. 

In the darkness, he heard the 
door open. ... THE END 

l\■. , lli^l^^liS^l^>l^\l^^^^l^-,l■^^M^■.^\l^^^\'.l.\^^^^^^'.^^^■^\>.^\^^\^\l■.^'.■.■,^^^\■^■l^l.^^^\v^n^.\^^.^^^\^^l^l.lVl^n^\\\^^\>l\^^lV^^^l\^\M.^^ll 



IF you know . 



i. 



2. OLFACTOMETER 



LISTED BELOW, in jumbled fashion, arc die names of 10 scientific 
instruments, with a brief description of each. Can you match up at least 
six of them correctly for a passing score? Seven to nine is good; 10 ex- 
cellent. The answers are on page 113. 

ONDOMETER (a) any instrument for measuring the 

intensity of light. 

(b) one for measuring a lower tem- 
perature than the ordinary mer- 
cury-thermometer will indicate. 

(c) it measures strength of X-rays. 

(d) an instrument for registering the 
form of electric waves. 

(e) for measuring solar radiation. 

(f) one for testing the scope of the 
field of vision. 

(g) is used to measure the keenness of 
the sense of smell. 

(h) a telescopic photographic instru- 
ment for taking pictures of the sun 
(as during an eclipse). 

(i) an instrument for recording the 
rotations of a wheel. 

(j) measures high degrees of heat. 



PERIMETER 
PYROMETER 



PHOTOHELIOGRAPH 
GRYOMETER 



7. CYCLOMETER 

8. PHOTOMETER 

9. PYRHELIOMETER 
10. PENETROMETER 



110 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 




SCIENCE 



/BRIEFS 



S 1 



The Road to Space 

* PACE TRAVEL is just around 
O the corner ; there arc many prob- 
lems to be solved yet, but clues to 
their solutions arc becoming abund- 
ant. When manned rockets burst 
out of Earth's atmosphere, and 
when they land on the moon and 
the planets, they will probably carry 
special equipment the design of 
which has been influenced by the 
conquerors of Mount Everest, Sir 
Edmund Hillary and his Shcrpa 
tribesman guide, Tcnzing Bhutia. 

Special oxygen equipment will be 
a. must, for instance, and the 
Everest expedition carried the light- 
est and most efficient breathing ap- 
paratus ever designed. Even so, Col. 
Sir John Hunt, the expedition's 
leader, said it had to be even better 
for future trips, and improvements 
are undoubtedly on the way. 

Vacuum packs compressed the 
expedition's food rations into solid 
wedges, which reverted to their nor- 
mal form (including cereals, cheese, 
tea, coffee, lemonade, sugar sweets 
and pemmican) when seals on the 
packs were broken. Thus, for the 
first time, a properly balanced diet 
was carried to really high altitudes. 
Tents were of a new material, a 



specially woven light-weight mix- 
ture of cotton and nylon. Boots for 
the final assault had to be very 
light and easy to put on in the 
ra reified atmosphere, but also very 
warm and strong. Those used had 
a glace kid outer surface, an inner 
insulation of fiber surounded by a 
lining of waterproof fabric, inner 
soles of leather with lightweight 
rubberized fabric backing, an inner 
sock of plastic fiber, and an outer 
sole of rubber reinforced with syn- 
thetic resin aerated for lightness. 
Walkic talkie sets weighing only five 
pounds were carried. 

The equipment used by space 
travelers may bear no exact re- 
semblance to that described here, 
but the techniques that will he used 
in making that equipment are be- 
ing discovered and used right now! 

The Weatherman Says 

ANEW PLUG for the space 
platform idea has come from 
Dr. Harry Wexler, chief of the Sci- 
entific Services Division of the 
United States Weather Bureau. 

Dr. Wexler points out that the 
sun is of course responsible for our 
weather, but that "there arc many 
things in our atmosphere that inter- 
fere with solar radiation." He listed 
particularly dust and the amount of 
carbon dioxide, but excluded atom 
bombs, which "dissipate too 
quickly." 

What we need, Dr. Wexler con- 
tinues, is "instruments close enough 
to the sun to measure the variations 
of solar radiation." Comparing 
these with ground measurements, 
we could learn the precise effect of 
the atmospheric resistance — after 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



111 



which we could proceed to change 
the composition of the atmosphere 
in order to change the weather, if 
we wished. 

And the obvious conclusion, the 
way to get the necessary instru- 
ments above the atmosphere, is to 
get that much-discussed space plat- 
form into operation! Dr. Wcxlcr is 
convinced that we'll do so one of 
these days. 

Dr. Wexlcr also points out that 
the Earth has become hotter. This 
is supported by the work of physicist 
Gilbert N. Plass of The Johns Hop- 
kins University, who has recalcu- 
lated the opacity of carbon dioxide 
to long-wave heat radiation and 
found it to be much greater than 
formerly believed. With so much 
industrial activity adding carbon 
dioxide to the air, the result is a 
greenhouse effect in which short- 
wave heat arrives from the sun but 
longer heat waves are prevented 
from escaping the Earth. 

Plass figures that the amount of 
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 
will be doubled by the year 2080, 
and that this will raise the Earth's 
temperature by about four per cent. 
This will also lessen the tempera- 
ture differentia! between the tops 
and bottoms of clouds, weakening 
the convection currents responsible 
for rainfall. If this happens, the 
weather will definitely be clearer 
and drier. 

Tragedy Unearthed 

IT'S A PARADOX that the terri- 
ble tragedy of the sudden burial 
of the Roman city of Pompeii in 
79 A.D. should become an advan- 
tage to modern archaeologists — but 



it has. The very nature of the ca- 
tastrophe has made it invaluable 
in the accumulation of historical 
relics from this spot. When the un- 
fortunate city with its 25,000 citi- 
zens was abruptly engulfed under 
volcanic ash, resulting from the 
tremendous eruption of Mt. Vesu- 
vius, important works of art and 
science, as well as articles of every- 
day life, were preserved for future 
historians. 

These did not suffer the inroads 
of slow destruction by the elements, 
as normally occurs. The volcanic 
ash mixed with the rain as it fell 
and hardened to form perfect casts, 
preserving victims' features imme- 
diately after death. Even minute 
facial features of the Pompciians 
were kept intact. By pouring plas- 
ter into the cavity formed In the 
volcanic ash where a victim was 
buried, a lifelike duplication of the 
person's appearance nearly 2,000 
years ago is possible. 

Excavations were first started on 
this spot in 1748, and digging has 
been continued off and on with 
many interruptions. Since that 
time, over 60 per cent of the over- 
lay of ash from the volcano's erup- 
tion has been removed. 

Watch the Fishie! 

THE FIRST equipment ever 
designed especially for photo- 
graphing underwater life at night 
has been put into operation off the 
Florida Keys by the National Geo- 
graphic Society. Called the aqua- 
scope, this new diving chamber con- 
sists of a flat tank seven feet long 
by five feet wide and 17yb inches 
high. There ts room inside for two 



112 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



men with color cameras, high vol- 
tage power equipment and bright 
lights. 

Constructed of armorplatc steel, 
the aquascope looks like something 
out of science fiction. It narrows at 
one end like a lobster's tail, and 
there arc two side windows that ex- 
tend outwards like metallic claws 
containing floodlights. A long stain- 
less steel "feeler" extending above 
the photographed area carries a 
third set of lights. 

The device is designed to pho- 
tograph underwater night life at 
depths of 50 to 100 feet. Using it, 
the photographers He prone on air 
mattresses in perfect comfort. Bright 
but brief flashes of light apparently 
do not disturb the fish, and no tell- 
tale air bubbles emerge from the 
aquascope since outgoing air is re- 
turned to the surface by hose. Even 
a fish has no privacy these days! 

Triple Threat Genes 

ANEW THEORY about genes 
that may help explain the 
cause of several diseases, includ- 
ing cancer, has been advanced by 
Dr. David M. Bonner, research as- 
sociate in microbiology at Yale Uni- 
versity. The main difference from 
former ideas on the subject is that 
Dr. Bonner believe genes — the tiny 
particles in the body that govern 
individual characteristics — may 
have three functional parts instead 
of only one. 

The single-function hypothesis 
held that the gene controlled a spe- 
cific type of reaction within the cell. 
Now Dr. Bonner has demonstrated 
that each gene also controls the 
time and rate of speed of such re- 



actions. If any one of these three 
functions is upset, a serious change 
results in the body's biochemical 
reactions. 

It's interesting to note that it was 
Dr. Bonner himself, in company with 
other scientists, who established the 
earlier theory eight years ago. Sci- 
ence keeps advancing largely be- 
cause scientists are willing and able 
to re-examine their own ideas! 

Measuring by Sound 

IN THE PAST, mechanical de- 
vices for measuring the flow of 
fluids often altered that flow by 
their own presence. This disadvan- 
tage has been overcome in a new 
instrument developed by the Na- 
tional Bureau of Standards. It does 
the job by sound waves. A trans- 
mitter scuds an impulse to a re- 
receiver a short distance along the 
line of flow, and the speed of the 
current is found by its effect on the 
speed of the sound. Thus the rate 
of flow of liquids in tubes, speeds of 
boats in the water, and even minute 
air currents can be measured easily 
and accurately. 

3-D For Good Eyesight? 

PRODUCERS of three-dimen- 
sional movies haven't gotten 
around to ballyhooing this in their 
advertising, but some experts claim 
that the widespread appearance of 
such films may raise the level of 
eyesight of the entire world. 

According to the calculations of 
R. A. Sherman, a Bausch & Lomb 
Opucal Co. visual specialist, be- 
tween 12 and 15 per cent of the 
public now have eye problems of 



SCIENCE BRIEFS 



113 



which they air unaware — and 
about which they'll learn for the 
first time by viewing 3-D movies. 
The eyes of such movie-goers can 
then be trained to lessen or elimin- 
ate these difficulties. 

"The beneficial impact on vision 
of properly produced, projected 
and viewed stereo motion pictures 
will be profound," Sherman has 
stated. "Directly and indirectly, 
viewing of true three-dimensional 
pictures will improve visual per- 
formance and thereby improve the 
general well-being of hundreds of 
thousands of individuals with good 
eyesight. Furthermore, additional 



thousands with insufficient visual 
skills will be stimulated to get pro- 
fessional eye care, which, in turn, 
will result in more efficient and sat- 
isfactory vision for them." 

So even if you don't enjoy the 
movies ordinarily, you owe it to 
yourself to see some 3-D pictures. 
Your eyes may be the winner! 



Answers to 
IF YOU KNOW 



1— d; 2— g; 3— f; 4— j; 5— h; 
6— bj 7— i; 8— a; 9— e; 10— c. 



WORTH CITING: 

CHILDHOOD'S END, by Arthur C. Clarke. Ballantine Books, 
New York, 1953. (35c and $2.00.) 

Arthur C. Clarke is best known to the public at large as an 
expert on rocketry and spaceflight, but science fiction readers 
know him equally well as a fiction writer with a distinctively quiet 
and effective style. His scientific background, of course, helps 
make his stories outstanding, but his ability to make his characters 
come alive and his willingness to sacrifice all the usual blood-and- 
thunder tricks to achieve credibility have also contributed to his 
popularity. 

In Childhood's End he has taken another step forward. While 
it contains enough new ideas and new slants on old ideas to satis- 
fy the most thoroughly spaccwarped fan, it can also be recom- 
mended to new readers, since it starts in a recognizable near- 
future and gradually, convincingly shows the changes in humani- 
ty and civilization that occur under 200 years of domination by 
the alien "Overlords." The plot is one that can't and shouldn't 
be summed up in a review. 

Naturally, such a theme has limitations; no one human 
character can be "hero" or even become vitally important to the 
reader. This makes for remoteness, but still the book is an ad- 
mirable accomplishment and a thrill to read. 




Shure and begorra, it was a great day for the Earth! The 
first envoy from another world was about to speak- 
that is, if he could forget that horse for a minute . . . 



off course 

By Mack Reynolds 

Illustrated by Kelly Freas 



FIRST ON the scene were Larry 
Dermott and Tim Casey of the 
Siatc Highway Patrol. They as- 
sumed they were witnessing the 
crash of a new type of Air Force 



plane and slipped and skidded des- 
perately across the field to within 
thirty feet of the strange craft, only 
to discover that the landing had 
been made without accident. 



114 



OFF COURSE 



115 



Patrolman Dermott shook his 
head. "They're gettin' queerer look- 
ing every year. Get a load of it — 
no wheels, no propeller, no cockpit." 

They left the car and made their 
way toward the strange egg-shaped 
vessel. 

Tim Casey loosened his .38 in its 
holster and said, "Sure and I'm 
beginning to wonder if it's one of 
ours. No insignia and — " 

A circular door slid open at that 
point and Dameri Tass stepped out, 
yawning. He spotted them, smiled 
and said, "Glork," 

They gaped at him. 

"Glork is right," Dermott swal- 
lowed. 

Tim Casey closed his mouth with 
an effort. "Do you mind the color 
of his face?" he blurted. 

"How could I help it?" 

Dameri Tass rubbed a blue-nailed 
pink hand down his purplish coun- 
tenance and yawned again. "Gorra 
manigan horp soratium," he said. 

Patrolman Dermott and Patrol- 
man Casey shot stares at each other. 
"'Tis double talk he's after givin' 
us," Casey said. 

Dameri Tass frowned. "Ha- 
rama?" he asked. 

Larry Dermott pushed his cap to 
the back of his head. "That doesn't 
sound like any language I've even 
heard about." 

Dameri Tass grimaced, turned 
and reentered his spacecraft to 
emerge in half a minute with his 
hands full of contraption. He held 
a box-like arrangement under his 
left arm; in his right hand were two 
metal caps connected to the box 
by wires. 

While the patrolmen watched 
him, he set the box on the ground, 



twirled two dials and put one of the 
caps on his head. He offered the 
other to Larry Dermot; his desire 
was obvious. 

Trained to grasp a situation and 
immediately respond in manner best 
suited to protect the welfare of the 
people of New York State, Dermott 
cleared his throat and said, "Tim, 
take over while I report." 

"Hey!" Casey protested, but his 
fellow minion had left. 

"Mandaia," Dameri Tass told 
Casey, holding out the metal cap. 

"Faith, an' do I look balmy?" 
Casey told him. "I wouldn't be 
puttin' that dingus on my head for 
all the colleens in Ireland." 

"Mandaia," the stranger said 
impatiently. 

"Bejasus," Casey snorted, "ye 
can't — " 

Dermott called from the car, 
"Tim, the captain says to humor 
this guy. We're to keep him here 
until the officials arrive." 

Tim Casey closed his eyes and 
groaned. "Humor him, he's after 
sayin'. Orders it is." He shouted 
back, "Sure an' did ye tell 'em he's 
in technicolor? Bcgorra, he looks 
like a man from Mars." 

"That's what they think," Larry 
yelled, "and the governor is on his 
way. We're to do everything pos- 
sible short of violence to keep this 
character here. Humor him, Tim!" 

"Mandaia," Dameri Tass 
snapped, pushing the cap into 
Casey's reluctant hands. 

Muttering his protests, Casey 
lifted it gingerly and placed it on 
his head. Not feeling any immedi- 
ate effect, he said, "There, 'tis sat- 
isfied ye are now, I'm supposin'." 

The alien stooped down and 



116 



MACK REYNOLDS 



Bided ft switch on the little box. 
Ir hummed gently. Tim Casey sur- 
dcnly shrieked and sat down on the 
stubble and grass of the field. "Be- 
gorra," he yelped, "I've been mur- 
thrrcd !" He tore the cap from 
his head. 

His companion came running, 
"What's the matter, Tim?" he 
shouted. 

Damcri Tass removed the metal 
cap from his own head. "Sure, an' 
nothin' is after bcin' the matter 
with him," he said. "Evidently the 
bhoy has niver been a-wearin' of 
a kerit helmet afore. 'Twill hurt 
him not at all." 



YOU CAN talk!" Dermott 
blurted, skidding to a stop. 

Damcri Tass shrugged. "Faith an' 
why not? As I was after sayin', I 
shared the kerit helmet with Tim 
Casey." 

Patrolman Dermott glared at him 
unbelievingly. "You learned the 
language just by sticking that Rube 
Goldberg deal on Tim's head?" 

"Sure, an* why not?" 

Dermott muttered, "And with it 
he has to pick up the corniest 
brogue west of Dublin." 

Tim Casey got to his feet indig- 
nantly. "I'm after resentin' that, 
Larry Dermott. Sure, an' the way 
we talk in Ireland is — " 

Damcri Tass interrupted, point- 
ing to a bedraggled horse that had 
made its way to within fifty feet of 
the vessel. "Now what could that 
be ftfta in-iii'?" 

The pftteolmen followed his stare. 
bone. What else?" 

"A lin 

LftlT) Dei mull looked again, just 



to make sure. "Yeah — not much of 
a horse, but a horse." 

Dameri Tass sighed ecstatically. 
"And jist what is a horse, if I may 
be so bold as to be askin'?" 
"It's an animal you ride on." 
The alien tore his gaze from the 
animal to look his disbelief at the 
other. "Are you after meanin 5 that 
you climb upon the crature's back 
and ride him? Faith now, quit your 
blarney." 

He looked at the horse again, 
then down at his equipment. "Be- 
gorra," he muttered, "I'll share the 
kerit helmet with the craturc." 

"Hey, hold it," Dermot said anx- 
iously. He was beginning to feel 
like a character in a shaggy dog 
story. 

Interest in the horse was ended 
with the sudden arrival of a heli- 
copter. It swooped down on the 
field and settled within twenty feet 
of the alien craft. Almost before it 
had touched, the door was flung 
open and the flying windmill dis- 
gorged two bestarred and efficient- 
looking Army officers. 

Casey and Dermott snapped them 
a salute. 

The senior general didn't take 
his eyes from the alien and the 
spacecraft as he spoke, and they 
bugged quite as effectively as had 
those of the patrolmen when they'd 
first arrived on the scene. 

"I'm Major General Browning," 
he rapped. "I want a police cordon 
thrown up around tills, er, vessel. 
No newsmen, no sightseers, nobody 
without my permission. As soon as 
Army personnel arrives, we'll take 
over completely." 

"Yes, sir," Larry Dermott said. "I 
just got a report on the radio that 



OFF COURSE 



117 



the governor is on. his way, sir. How 
about him?" 

The general muttered something 
under his breath. Then, "When the 
governor arrives, let me know ; 
otherwise, nobody gets through!" 

Damcri Tass said, "Faith, and 
what goes on?" 

The general's eyes bugged still 
further. "He talks!" he accused. 

"YeSj sir," Dermott said. "He 
had some kind of a machine. He 
put it over Tim's head and seconds 
later he could talk." 

"Nonsense!" the general snapped. 

Further discussion was inter- 
rupted by the screaming arrival of 
several motorcycle patrolmen fol- 
lowed by three heavily laden patrol 
cars. Overhead, pursuit planes 
zoomed in and began darting about 
nervously above the field. 

"Sure, and it's quite a reception 
I'm after gettin'," Dameri Tass said. 
He yawned. "But what I'm wantin' 
is a chance to get some sleep. Faith, 
an' I've been awake for almost a 
decal." 



DAMERI TASS was hurried, via 
helicopter, to Washington. There 
he disappeared for several days, 
being held incommunicado while 
White House, Pentagon, State De- 
partment and Congress tried to 
figure out just what to do with him. 
Never in the history of the planet 
had such a furor arisen. Thus far, 
no newspapermen had been allowed 
within speaking distance. Adminis- 
tration higher-ups were being sub- 
jected to a volcano of editorial heat 
but the longer the space alien was 
discussed the more they viewed with 
alarm the situation his arrival had 



precipitated. There were angles that 
hadn't at first been evident. 

Obviously he was from some civi- 
lization far beyond that of Earth'. 
That was the rub. No matter what 
he said, it would shake governments, 
possibly overthrow social systems, 
perhaps even destroy established re- 
ligious concepts. 

But they couldn't keep him under 
wraps indefinitely. 

It was the United Nations that 
cracked the iron curtain. Their de- 
mands that the alien be heard be- 
fore their body were too strong and 
had too much public opinion behind 
them to be ignored. The White 
House yielded and the date was set 
for the visitor to speak before the 
Assembly. 

Excitement, anticipation, blank- 
eted the world. Shepherds in Sin- 
kiang, multi-millionaires in Switzer- 
land, fakirs in Pakistan, gauchos in 
the Argentine were raised to a 
zenith of expectation. Panhandlers 
debated the message to come with 
pedestrians; jinrikisha men argued 
it with their passengers; miners dis- 
cussed it deep beneath the surface; 
pilots argued with their co-pilots 
thousands of feet above. 

It was the most universally 
awaited event of the ages. 

By the time the delegates from 
every nation, tribe, religion, class, 
color, and race had gathered in 
New York to receive the message 
from the stars, the majority of 
Earth had decided that Damcri 
Tass was the plenipotentiary of a 
super-civilization which had been 
viewing developments on this planet 
with misgivings. It was thought 
this other civilization had advanced 
greatly beyond Earth's and that the 



118 



MACK REYNOLDS 



|iinl>!i ins besetting us — social, ceo- 
iioinii , scientific — had been solved 
>>-. ill. super-civilization. Obviously, 
then, Damcri Tass had come, an 
. 1 1 1 \ i .- ■ ■ ■ from a benevolent and 
friendly people, to guide the world 
aright. 

And nine-tenths of the popula- 
tion of Earth stood ready and will- 
ing to be guided. The other tenth 
liked things as they were and were 
quite convinced that the space 
envoy would upset their applecarts. 



VILJALMAR Andersen, Secre- 
tary-General of the U.N., was to 
introduce the space emissary. "Can 
you give me an idea at all of what 
he is like?" he asked nervously. 

President McCord was as upset 
as the Dane. He shrugged in agi- 
tation. "I know almost as little as 
you do." 

Sir Alfred Oxford protested, "But 
my dear chap, you've had him for 
almost two weeks. Certainly in that 
time ■" 

The President snapped back, 
"You probably won't believe this, 
but he's been asleep until yesterday. 
When he first arrived he told us he 
hadn't slept for a decal, whatever 
that is ; so we held off our discussion 
with him until morning. Well — 
he didn't awaken in the morning, 
nor the next. Six days later, fear- 
ing something was wrong we woke 
him " 

"What happened?" Sir Alfred 
■iked. 

The President showed embarrass- 
ment. "He used some rather ripe 
in h profanity on us, rolled over, 
. mi back to sleep.* 1 

Viljalmar Andersen asked, "Well, 



what happened yesterday?" 

"We actually haven't had time to 

Question him. Among other things, 
lere's been some controversy about 
whose jurisdiction he comes under. 
The State Department claims the 
Army shouldn't — " 

The Secretary General sighed 
deeply. "Just what did he do?" 

"The Secret Service reports he 
spent the day whistling Mother Ma- 
chree and playing with his dog, cat 
and mouse." 

"Dog, cat and mouse? I say!" 
blurted Sir Alfred. 

The President was defensive. "He 
had to have some occupation, arid 
he seems to be particularly inter- 
ested in our animal life. He wanted 
a horse but compromised for the 
others. I understand he insists all 
three of them come with him wher- 
ever he goes." 

"I wish we knew what he was 
going to say," Andersen worried. 

"Here he comes," said Sir Alfred. 

Surrounded by F.B.I, men, 
Damcri Tass was ushered to the 
speaker's stand. He had a kitten in 
his arms; a Scotty followed him. 

The alien frowned worriedly. 
"Sure," he said, "and what kin all 
this be? Is it some ordinance I've 
been after breakin'?" 

McCord, Sir Alfred and Ander- 
sen hastened to reassure him and 
made him comfortable in a chair. 

Viljalmar Andersen faced the 
thousands in the audience and held 
up his hands, but it was ten min- 
utes before he was able to quiet the 
cheering, stamping delegates from 
all Earth. 

Finally : "Fellow Tcrrans, I shall 
not take your time for a lengthy 
introduction of the envoy from the 



OFF COURSE 



119 



stars. I will only say that, without 
doubt, this is the most important 
moment in the history of the human 
race. Wc will now hear from the 
first being to come to Earth from 
another world." 

He turned and gestured to Da- 
meri Tass who hadn't been paying 
over much attention to the chair- 
man in view of some dog and cat 
hostilities that had been developing 
about his feet. 

But now the alien's purplish face 
faded to a light blue. He stood and 
said hoarsely. "Faith, an* what was 
that last you said?" 

Viljalmar Andersen repeated, 
"We will now hear from the first 
being ever to come to Earth from 
another world." 

The face of the alien went a 
lighter blue. "Sure, and' ye wouldn't 
jist be frightenin' a body, would 
ye? You don't mean to tell me this 
planet isn't after bein' a member of 
the Galactic League?" 

Andersen's face was blank. "Ga- 
lactic League?" 

"Cushlamachree," Damcri Tass 
moaned. "I've gone and put me 
foot in it again. Til be after getting 
kert for this." 

Sir Alfred was on his feet. "I 
don't understand! Do you mean you 
aren't an envoy from another 
planet?" 

Damcri Tass held his head is his 
bands and groaned. "An envoy, he's 
sayin', and meself only a second rate 
collector of specimens for the Car- 
this zoo." 

He straightened and started off 
the speaker's stand. "Sure, an' I 
must blast off immediately." 

Things were moving fast for 
President McCord but already an 



edge of relief was manifesting itself. 
Taking the initiative, he said, "Of 
course, of course, if that is your 
desire." He signaled to the body- 
guard who had accompanied the 
alien to the assemblage. 

A dull roar was beginning to 
emanate from the thousands gath- 
ered in the tremendous hall, mur- 
muring, questioning, disbelieving. 



VILJALMAR Andersen felt that 
he must say something. He ex- 
tended a detaining hand. "Now you 
are here," he said urgently, "even 
though by mistake, before you go 
can't you give us some brief word? 
Our world is in chaos. Many of us 
have lost faith. Perhaps . . ." 

Dameri Tass shook off the re- 
straining hand. "Do I look daft? 
Begorry, I should have been 
a-knowin' something was queer. All 
your weapons and your strange 
ideas. Faith, I wouldn't be sur- 
prised if ye hadn't yet established 
a planet- wide government. Sure, 
an' I'll go still further. Ye prob- 
ably still have wars on this be- 
nighted world. No wonder it is ye 
haven't been invited to join the 
Galactic League an' take your place 
among the civilized planets." 

He hustled from the rostrum and 
made his way, still surrounded by 
guards, to the door by which he had 
entered. The dog and the cat trot- 
ted after, undismayed by the furor 
about them. 

They arrived about four hours 
later at the field on which he'd 
landed, and the alien from space 
hurried toward his craft, still mut- 
tering. Hc'l been accompanied by a 
general and by the President, but 



120 



MACK REYNOLDS 



all the way he had refrained from 
speaking. 

He scurried from the car and 
toward the spacecraft. 

President McGord said, "You've 
forgotten your pets. We would be 
glad if you would accept them as — " 

The alien's face faded a light 
blue again. "Faith, an* I'd almost 
forgotten," he said. "If I'd taken 
a craturc from this quarantined 
planet, my name'd be nork. Keep 
your dog and your kitty." He shook 
his head sadly and extracted a 
mouse from a pocket. "An' this 
amazin' little craturc as well." 

They followed him to the space 
craft. Just before entering, he spot- 
ted the bedraggled horse that had 
been present on his landing. 



A longing expression came over 
his highly colored face. "Jist one 
thing," he said. "Faith now, were 
they pullin' my leg when they said 
you were after ridln' on the back of 
those things?" 

The President looked at the woe- 
begone nag. "It's a horse," he said, 
surprised. "Man has been riding 
them for centuries." 

Dameri Tass shook his head. 
"Sure an' 'twould' ve been my 
makin' if I could've taken one back 
to Carthis." He entered his vessel. 

The others drew back, out of 
range of the expected blast, and 
watched, each with his own 
thoughts, as the first visitor from 
space hurriedly left Earth. 

... THE END 



ONE SANE MAN — IN A NEUROTIC WORLD! 

LEADING OFF the first monthly issue of IF will be a stunning 
short novel by one of the most popular and talented writers in the 
field, Sarn Merwin Jr., entitled The Ambassador. Here you'll 
find an intriguing situation, replete with action, romance and 
humor — and a grim problem you'll twist your wits trying to 
solve. The scene is a future in which Earth is ruled by computing 
machines and entangled in eccentric notions— just for instance, 
it's the height of politeness to make yourself as ugly as possible! 
There's a cast of unique people, including a multitude of spies 
and plotters, two mysterious and beautiful women, and Am- 
bassador Zalen Lindsay, the strikingly human Man-from-Mars 
who must straighten out the tottering mess or see two worlds 
perish. This stellar performance will be backed up by the best 
work of such top-notch writers as Robert Abcrnathyj James 
McKimmey Jr., Frank M. Robinson and many others. There 
will also be the first of a scries of articles designed to acquaint 
you entertainingly with the scientific facts of today and possibili- 
ties of tomorrow. January 8th is the date the March issue goes 
on sale — don't miss it! 




-»W**T;i 



ROBOT MINING con eliminate oil the dangers and hordships now 
undergone by human miners, and extend the possible depth of 
shafts to five or even ten miles below the surface. The robot shown 
here is drilling holes for the demolition squad. It is radio-con- 
trolled, and a television camera in its head keeps its operators on 
the surface fully informed of its progress. 

(Drawings by Ed Valigurskyl